‘Over 50 per cent of high street tackle shops will be gone within 10 years.’ That’s the chilling prediction of former fishery boss Terry Knight as two of the country’s biggest commercial waters set a trend by opening huge on-site tackle shops.
Gold Valley Lakes, in Hampshire, and Lindholme Lakes, near Doncaster, will soon join the growing list of fisheries boasting fully-stocked tackle shops once developments allow them to introduce unique, new services at their existing on-site stores.
Both will be backed by some of the biggest tackle manufacturers, boast pole and bivvy showrooms, and give anglers the opportunity to test all the latest gear on their multi-award-winning lakes before buying.
Former world champion and co-owner of Gold Valley Lakes William Raison could soon be offering anglers advice on purchases, while Lindholme will employ a full-time ‘big name angler’ to help in its new tackle shop.
Such changes mean anglers no longer have to use their traditional high street tackle shop, provoking Terry, former owner of the popular Burton Mere Fishery in Cheshire, into making his bold, but believable prediction.
“There’s no escaping the fact that many small shops are going to go under because they just can’t compete with the services larger, popular commercials can offer,” Terry told Angling Times.
“I opened a small tackle shop at Burton Mere about 10 years ago and, in just a few years, my turnover went from £3,000 to £120,000 without even trying, proving just how much demand there is for this kind of service.
“This transition is no different to what’s happening on the high street with the small corner shops and huge chains like Tesco. Anglers want to be able to buy everything under one roof and high street tackle shops will be the casualties,” he added.
Work will start on both the new shops next year and the two fishery owners insist they’re not looking to take business from the high street, but instead give their customers what they want.
“The industry is evolving and any commercial fishery owner would be foolish to ignore the demand from their customers,” said Neil Grantham, owner of Lindholme Lakes.
Those sentiments were echoed by Neil Stockton, manager of Stapeley Angling Centre near Nantwich, Cheshire, who recently opened up another shop at the popular Cudmore Fisheries complex in Staffs.
“Our Cudmore shop allows customers to try before they buy,” explained Neil.
“Having a shop on a big, successful commercial enables you to carry out tackle demonstrations and instruct customers on how to get the most out of their purchases.
“It wasn’t about taking business from smaller shops, but more an effort to interact better with our customers and get more people fishing more often,” he said.
Fishing is fast becoming an old man’s sport. That’s one of the conclusions of the biggest-ever angling survey, which found that just nine per cent of fishermen are under the age of 30, with the average age of an angler now 49.
The report into angling participation, which was independently carried out by Substance research, showed that a massive 52 per cent are aged 50 and above, and also included a host of other interesting figures, including:
Coarse fishing is the preferred type of angling for 59.4 per cent of anglers, as opposed to 25.6 per cent for game and 15 per cent for sea.
A person goes fishing for an average of 58 days per year.
Anglers spend on average £501-£1,000 per year on fishing.
The mean annual income for an angler’s household is £51,137.
56 per cent of anglers did not rank catching big fish as an important reason to go fishing, and 69 per cent did not rate catching lots of fish as an important motivation.
The age trends exposed in the research is something that Martin Salter, Parliamentary spokesperson for angling, is well aware of. The keen angler believes there is a real dearth of fishermen aged between 20 and 30.
“It’s like missing a whole year class of fish. Could this be because we didn’t do enough to encourage youngsters 10 to 15 years ago? Possibly, but there are more young people coming through now. It’s important that we double our efforts to recruit new blood,” said Martin.
The survey, backed by the National Lottery, also found that 44 per cent of anglers thought fishing a moderately intense physical sport, and 34 per cent even described it as highly intense. These statistics are crucial for securing future funding says Jackie Sheldon, senior development manager for the Angling Development Board.
“I’ll be presenting this report to Sport England because it backs up evidence from another survey that I’ve recently obtained, where 46 per cent of anglers consider it moderately intense. In growth areas Sport England only funds sports that meet this criteria, but fishing is regarded as low intensity,” said Jackie.
Swinton Angling Project
The Swinton Angling Project been running now for some 6 years. It gives free taster sessions and OCN courses to local children, schools, colleges and specialists groups.
They have six fully-qualified professional angling coaches and three bankside supervisiors in our coaching team.
The lodge has been specifically renovated to include all comers, the angling platforms were designed to BDAA standards and we hold a BDAA gold award for access and facilites.
The club is NOCN accredited and delivers courses in pole angling and bankside supervision to all interested parties.
The whole system is based on volunteers. Coaches receive only expenses and give their time and commitment freely.
It is working, it is attracting new blood to the sport, it is engaging the community, it is helping kids off the couch and away from the computer screens into the out doors in a safe and secure environment.
The project continues to grow and next year during all school holidays they will offer 2 sessions of 2 hrs per day, 5 days per week - all free.
Along with 10 sessions for our local primary schools, there will be an ONC pole angling course for our local High School, and one coaching session per week throughout the year for an innner city Academy.
This is a picture of one of the biggest pike ever caught from a canal ¬ all 31lb 2oz of it.
The impressive fish was taken by Julian Chidgey from a venue in the South West and was just reward for an extensive pre-baiting campaign undertaken by the 27-year-old.
In the two months leading up to the capture the Devon-based specialist drove to the canal three times a week after work to deposit a pungent mixture of chopped-up old deadbaits and ‘reduced to clear’ fish from the local supermarket ¬ all bound together with SBS Predator groundbait and various other additives.
The extra effort paid almost instant dividends, with the big girl picking up Julian’s legered smelt deadbait just 20 minutes after he cast in to the base of the marginal shelf tight to a large weedbed.
“As she came close to the net I realised that I was connected to at least an upper twenty and, after losing a big fish that got tangled in the net and threw the hooks a few weeks ago, I was extra careful with this one!
“When I tried to lift her I realised I had caught the fish of a lifetime from a canal,” said a delighted Julian.
The capture caps a sensational year’s pike fishing for the Korum consultant, who has taken 15 fish over 20lb, topped by a 32lb 14oz giant from Chew Valley lake at the end of October, as well as a string of huge fish of other species, including tench to 11lb 7oz, eels to just under 6lb, rudd to 2lb 10oz and carp to a whopping 45lb.
“I’ve had a great year in 2009, but this latest pike is head and shoulders above the rest for me because I started my fishing as a child on the canals.
“The image of that fish and its huge frame as it swam away strongly will live with me forever ¬ it’s made my season,” said Julian, who presented his bait on size 4 trebles, 40lb Caliber Wonderwire and 50lb braid.
Further proof of just how well perch can thrive in the nation’s commercial fisheries emerged this week when Jonathan Smith landed this cracking 4lb 6oz fish from a venue in the North.
The Chesterfield-based predator enthusiast obliterated his previous best for the species when he targeted his local Press Manor Coarse Lake with worm and feeder tactics to tempt the specimen during a miserable late autumn day.
Regularly casting and dragging back his feeder enabled the 34-year-old foreman to cover plenty of water, and he eventually tempted a bite in freezing conditions by feeding crushed casters and chopped worm through the feeder, with a lobworm tail presented on a 4ft long 2.5lb hooklink at the business end.
“I lost a big fish on a lure last year that I suspected was a big perch, and I decided there and then that I’d return when the conditions were right to have another go,” explained Jonathan.
“But when it came to catching this fish it just blew me away ¬ I’ll never beat it unless I make a real effort to fish somewhere down south like the Great Ouse, where there are numbers of big fish,” he said.
The popular day-ticket mixed fishery has produced numerous good perch to 3lb 8oz in the past, including quite a few to Jonathan’s own rods, but this specimen comfortably set a new venue best.
“I’m finding lobworms are catching me far more big fish this season than lures and livebaits are,” added Jonathan, who also recently set a new zander pb with a 11lb 2oz fish caught during a trip to the lower reaches of the River Trent.
For more information about fishing at the venue visit www.pressmanorfishery.co.uk
The news that barbel stocks are to be replenished in the River Wensum ¬ as they have been on other rivers where they are not successfully regenerating naturally ¬ is very welcome. I wish those involved, and especially the fish, good fortune every step of the way.
I have, as usual, taken a slightly sideways step and thought about why there is a barbel shortage. If, as is the current trend of popular thought, otters are to blame, has that situation changed? If not, is there any benefit in feeding them yet more barbel any more than there is the restocking of small roach and chub where cormorants are likely to have created the shortage in the first place?
There is absolutely no doubt that angling needs some serious research carried out on fish stocks. Just because we anglers can’t catch them, or even see them, doesn’t necessarily mean that fish are not present. I’m not talking migratory shoals here, but resident fish. I heard a whisper about a very recent survey on a stretch of a well-known southern river - I won’t name it because it didn’t come from an official source - that despite extremely poor catch returns, especially for barbel, the survey found more barbel than were ever believed to be present.
There is history of many species disappearing for varying lengths of time up to years then, as if from nowhere, fully mature fish turn up as if they’ve never been gone. Even the Warwickshire Avon roach which, according to as many local anglers as you could find, had simply been eaten by the pike, showed up in such massive numbers on the 2009 Shakespeare Festival ¬ as soon as bloodworm and joker was allowed - there were many eggy faces, including mine.
There is no doubt that on some stretches of some rivers big fish have disappeared, at least from anglers’ catches. That is not proof they are not there, only evidence towards that likelihood.
In the meantime, if we are to treat the future with anything other than contempt, we must pursue the likelihood that stocked fish will survive and flourish. If they don’t, what happens next?
Casting at showing fish accounts for countless captures each year, and Neil West put the tactic to good use when he took nine carp to 39lb during a short six-hour day session on Layer Pit in Essex.
On arrival at the 14-acre Colchester Angling Preservation Society-controlled water, the 32-year-old set up in the teeth of a north-easterly wind and soon spotted several carp topping at 80yds range.
He wasted no time in casting a couple of Mainline Cell hookbaits and three bait stringers to the area, and he didn’t have to wait long for the action to start.
“After catching several double-figure carp I had a take from what was obviously a better fish,” he told Angling Times. “After 15 minutes it rolled on the surface and I saw a big set of shoulders that I knew belonged to the lake’s biggest fish, Vanessa.”
With his new pb photographed and returned, it wasn’t long before he was in again, this time the culprit being a 30lb 6oz common.
“It was the first time I’d had a brace of thirties, and to catch them at this time of year made it even more special,” he added.
The Essex-based builder took all his fish on bottom baits mounted on size 8 Fox Arma Point SSC hooks and 8ins ESP Strip Teaze Two Tone hooklinks.
Four sections of the upper River Trent received the UK’s biggest-ever restocking in a single day last week with the introduction of 17,000 Calverton-reared fish, helping to boost numbers depleted by recent pollution incidents.
The Environment Agency’s fish farm in Nottinghamshire supplied 4,000 barbel, 2,000 chub, 5,000 dace and 6,000 roach which were stocked at Stone Slalom Course, Weston, Shugborough and Wolseley Bridge.
The efforts of the fish-rearing team at Calverton mean that the pollution-ravaged waterway, most recently hit by cyanide poisoning in October, will have been restocked with 85,000 fish in the three months to Christmas.
“This is the biggest restocking programme Calverton has ever carried out ¬ they have emptied the farm’s stock ponds in an effort to speed up the Trent’s recovery,” explained an EA spokesperson.
Many of the fish are grown-on, older fish which have the best chance of surviving to sexual maturity and spawning the next generation of Trent fish.
This winter, Calverton will stock more than a million fish into rivers across England and Wales.
Efforts to restore the otter-ravaged River Wensum to its former glory took a step closer last week with an Environment Agency barbel stocking, the first for nine years.
Local anglers, led by the influential Norfolk Anglers’ Conservation Association (NACA), finally managed to persuade the EA and Natural England that otter predation was significantly devaluing their fishery, and that restockings were the only short-term solution.
A total of 850, two-year-old, radio-tagged barbel were introduced to four sections of the river, a former British record venue which is also home to the largest known barbel in the country ¬ a fish named The Beast which tipped the scales at 21lb 2oz when caught by Chris Mack in November 2008.
The introductions are part of plans to monitor the survival, movement and growth of all the fish while further in-river habitat improvement works are carried out.
Further supplementary introductions will be carried out over future seasons until such time as monitoring proves the fish populations have become self-sustaining.
“It was an exciting day for the association, its members and other local anglers - we’ve been crying out for these fish for years,” said NACA chairman Chris Oakley.
“We’ve finally convinced the authorities that otter predation is destroying our fishery. We appreciate that they have listened to us and are working with us to find a long-term solution.
“Anglers don’t want rivers stuffed full of barbel, we simply want balanced fisheries that include small, self-sustaining populations of the species,” he added.
Local clubs have had to fight long and hard to get Natural England to allow stockings into the river, which is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Their victory is proof that other clubs could benefit from ‘remedial stockings’ if they can present convincing cases that predation is damaging their fishery’s socio-economic value.
The EA is currently working with the Angling Trust to draw up a list of rivers thought to have been adversely affected by otters, with a view to ‘kick-starting’ fish populations while they address the other reasons for declines, such as habitat degradation, pollution and poor recruitment.
“Anglers need to organise themselves, collate as much evidence as possible in terms of declining catch returns and present a convincing case which fisheries officers can’t ignore,” explained Chris.
“If fisheries fail, then clubs and local businesses fail and people will find themselves without jobs,” he added.
With pike fishing on my agenda I took a day off from work and travelled from Bridgnorth where I live to Hereford on Wednesday 16th Dec to fish the River Wye.
I got a day ticket from Woody's Tackle Shop to try for one of the many pike that I had heard were showing in numbers during recent Hereford & District AA match fishing contests.
The day was a success to say the least, catching four pike with one of them being this big girl weighing 27lb 4oz.
A fellow pike angler fishing in the next peg helped me weigh and photograph it.
All the days fish took hold only when the legered roach deadbaits being used where twitched along the bottom 15 minutes after being cast in - a tip provided by the local tackle shop owner... Thanks Woody!
Starting on January 5th Angling Times is launching the JRC sponsored Carp Cup competition - an exciting new specimen carp competition which aims to reward anglers for their special captures.
All you have to do is send in a picture of your catch along with a few details about it.
It's as simple as that!
It’s not a case that the biggest fish will win each week, because details such as circumstances surrounding the capture, innovation, watercraft and picture quality will all be taken into consideration. So do please include as many details about the capture as you can.
HOW TO ENTER
Send your specimen carp captures to: The JRC Carp Cup, Angling Times, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough, PE2 6EA. Or email: email@example.com
Don't forget to include your name, address and daytime telephone number - we may need to contact you if you are lucky enough to win - together with as much detail as you can regarding your carp catch.
WHAT YOU CAN WIN
Every weekly winner will receive a JRC Food Bag Carryall set worth £62.99.
At the end of the year all of the weekly winners will be in with the chance of winning the prestigious JRC Carp Cup and a JRC carp set up worth £1,000.
It's an opportunity not to be missed, so remember to send in your catch photos and stories and you could be the proud owner of new carping gear.
I see that some people are speculating that chub and barbel, now being stocked into commercial stillwaters as carp continue to perish thanks to KHV, may be providing record-sized fish in the future. Logic tells me there is more chance of me taking a holiday on Venus.
We’re not talking about low-stocked waters where fast-growing strains of fish are fed on high-protein diets if anglers don’t oblige sufficiently, but match/pleasure type waters with high stock densities where even ‘pigs with fins’ don’t get to anywhere close to record sizes.
There is little doubt, and some evidence, that fish have shorter lives in commercial fisheries ¬ even low-stock ‘specimen’ waters ¬ than in rivers or natural lakes, even semi-natural lakes such as gravel pits where an individual eco-system develops.
Commercial fisheries have been part of the scenery for more than 20 years now and, perch apart, have yet to provide anything like a record fish of any species. If I recall, some very big ¬ and controversial - barbel were stocked into Makins when it first opened.
There were doubts as to the source of supply, although I think they had Brummie accents, and if the speculation had any basis they would have gained even more weight and be massive by now. If they are still there, they have also gained invisibility.
So, will there be record chub and barbel grown on in commercial fisheries?
No is the simple answer. That isn’t to say that, like carp, some enterprising fishery owner doesn’t stock a few and fatten them up with pellets in a private syndicate.
Some people will go to any lengths...
In a huge shake-up of the rules governing freshwater angling, eels caught on rod and line can no longer be taken for the table - they must now be returned to the water alive.
The decision, which ends a centuries-old tradition of fishing for food, follows the announcement of proposed new Environment Agency byelaws outlawing the removal of rod-caught coarse fish.
News of the legislation, expected to be effective by the end of April, comes after years of campaigning by Angling Times and its readers, and proves beyond doubt that the EA takes the problem of fish theft very seriously.
The Agency is proposing that anglers only be allowed to take:
15 coarse fish less than 20cm in length each day
One pike of less than 65cm a day
Lake fish with the written permission of the fishery owner
Two grayling between 30cm and 38cm each day
Anglers will also have to return all eels, a watershed development that highlights the species’ shocking decline, with eel stocks having collapsed by as much as 95 per cent since the early 1980s.
“We hope these byelaws achieve the right balance, but anybody objecting to our proposals needs to do so in writing to Defra by January 20,” said senior EA fisheries policy manager Adrian Taylor.
After this final six-week consultation, the EA will formally apply to the Environment Secretary and the Welsh Minister for Rural Affairs for confirmation, after which the rules will be brought into play.
“It’s a real milestone to have reached. We got there as fast as we could, even conducting an informal consultation in advance, because we recognise how important the issue of fish theft is to anglers, clubs and fishery owners,” said Adrian.
The change from the current regional system which allows anglers to remove most species - described by many as ‘archaic’ ¬ to one prohibiting the taking of anything but a handful of bait and the odd pike represents a huge step forward in conservation terms, the need for which couldn’t be clearer where European eels are concerned.
“I’m sure anglers on the Severn do still sometimes take eels for the table, but it’s a changing world and they can’t do it any more - it’s as simple as that,” was Des Taylor’s matter-of-fact response to the news.
This 4.5ins Allcock Rollerback centrepin reel is in immaculate condition despite being around 105 years old, a factor which helped it fetch an astounding £8,000 at the latest Angling Auctions’ sale of fishing tackle and memorabilia in London.
“Although this particular model is exceptionally rare and keenly sought-after by collectors, even I was astounded at the price it finally sold for at auction,” said Angling Auctions boss Neil Freeman, whose next auction will be taking place on March 27.
Visit www.angling-auctions.co.uk for details of how to order a catalogue.
Anglers are calling for a major overhaul of the rod-licence system in a battle to educate Eastern European poachers about the UK’s catch-and-release ethic.
For the past few seasons, fish thieves have plagued venues up and down the country and it is now being suggested that the Environment Agency should employ another country’s approach to angling in order to beat the growing problem.
Strict laws in Germany insist that individuals wanting to take up angling must first go a rigorous and lengthy vetting process to ensure that they are knowledgeable in key areas before they are free to go fishing.
Newcomers to the sport must join a registered club, before purchasing a permit which allows them to possess fishing tackle.
They must then complete an apprenticeship under the tutelage of an experienced angler, before taking practical and theoretical exams on tackle, health and safety, fish recognition and conservation.
Only once they have completed this gruelling schedule will officials allow them to own a full licence.
Those who have witnessed the German format first-hand have been so impressed by the results that they think it could provide the solution to UK problems.
“Everybody plays by the rules and they are strictly implemented. The system makes sure everybody is competent and teaches everyone the ethics of angling,” said former soldier and keen fisherman Alan Draycott, who served in Germany for several years.
“If all anglers, including Eastern Europeans, were made to take a similar examination in the UK before being allowed to fish, and if they had to produce their permits before being sold a day ticket, then perhaps fishery owners wouldn’t have to go to such ridiculous lengths to protect their fish,” suggested Alan.
Fisheries bosses have unsuccessfully employed a variety of techniques to defend their waters from thieves, and Cudmore Fishery chief Cyril Brewster believes such a system could play a vital part in the sport’s future.
“Not enough anglers are aware of the basics of the sport. Lessons and tests on subjects such as health and safety, fish welfare and catch and release would help improve people’s knowledge of our angling ethos,” said Cyril.
Despite the calls, EA officials believe the proposals would have a detrimental effect, as angling participation manager Richard Wightman explained: “The need for such measures is unproven and they would be expensive to administer. They would sit uncomfortably with our angling culture which celebrates escapism and relaxation and the drive toward modern, proportionate regulation.”
Prebaiting isn’t a tactic you normally associate with predator fishing, but Mick Brown put the practice to good effect in his efforts to catch this 27lb 11oz specimen pike from a 26-acre Lincolnshire gravel pit.
The local predator expert baited a deep area of the venue with around 20lb of dead fish before returning the following day to bank the stunner, together with two jacks, on popped-up mackerel deadbaits.
“I hadn’t fished the lake for three years, and it doesn’t produce many big pike, so this was a real result,” Mick told Angling Times.
He also revealed that his 13-year stint as a Fox International consultant has come to an end and that he is currently in negotiations with several other companies.
“There were no hard feelings, but due to the recession they couldn’t continue with my current contract,” said Mick.
The fight to get a controversial fishing ban at Cusworth Hall overturned took a shock twist this week after water voles were cited as the reason for doing away with angling.
Over the summer, Angling Times launched a campaign to get Doncaster County Council’s decision to ban angling on the popular local venue reversed after hundreds of disgruntled readers called up to vent their anger at the new policy.
An investigation was instantly launched and officials from the council have now revealed that the spread of water voles on the site led to anglers no longer being welcome.
Mayor Peter Davies is now claiming that the majority of the town’s residents were in favour of banning angling in order to protect the small, furry rodents.
“An independent environmental impact assessment into any potential resumption of angling was commissioned. It confirmed that, in the absence of any angling activities, the water vole population spread from one location to all three lakes following their restoration,” said the mayor.
“The results of the consultation came out in favour of not resuming angling at the lakes, the general consensus of opinion being that water voles are a rare and endangered species, and that there are many other suitable, purpose-built venues available to anglers within the borough,” he added.
But anglers appear ready to continue to push for the return of the sport to the venue in spite of the mayor’s statement.
Local rod Derek Belli controlled the fishing at Cusworth at one time and he is adamant that anglers helped conserve local wildlife.
“The lake that anglers targeted had water voles present when fishing was allowed ¬ I know that for a fact. When the restoration of the venue took place officials were told water voles were present, but that didn’t stop them ripping the place up with diggers and JCBs,” said Derek.
“As for the consultation, it was a farce. The vote was available on a site that the ecologists used and anglers simply weren’t made aware of it.
Multiple voting was allowed and it was biased against anglers from the outset,” he added.
Experts in water vole conservation have been left bemused by the council’s reasoning, in particular the reliability of the impact assessment.
Derek Gow, who runs a consultancy firm specialising in water vole conservation and has studied the creatures intensively for well over a decade, told Angling Times: “If anglers don’t disturb the vegetation between their pegs and keep their area tidy, then I see no reason why fishing should be stopped to protect voles. I have done numerous studies relating to the species at places where fishing takes place and I have always witnessed water voles and anglers living side by side. I really can’t see what the issue is.”
“If it wasn’t for gill netting, Lake Windermere wouldn’t be half the fishery it is today.”
That’s the controversial claim of Gord Burton, one of the most successful and well-respected pike anglers of all time, as gill netting at the premier predator water continues to incite anger in some quarters.
Internet chatrooms went into meltdown as anglers reacted with shock and anger at the recent discovery on Windermere of a series of gill nets which indiscriminately trap and kill adult pike.
But the deadly devices have been used by scientists the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology to help them carry out vital studies of the lake’s pike population for the past 60 years.
And, despite the research being responsible for the deaths of 149 adult pike in 2008 alone, the man dubbed ‘the King of Windermere’ has also gained the support of the Pike Anglers’ Club of Great Britain in his beliefs that the nettings are the main reason why the lake remains one of Britain’s greatest pike waters.
“I believe it’s no coincidence that pike are netted, killed and analysed here every year and yet there aren’t many other venues, with the exception of some of the trout reservoirs, that can touch this great lake in term of the quality of pike fishing it offers,” said Gord, who’s fished the lake for over 35 years and landed 100 pike exceeding 20lb.
“Those anglers who frown on this practice are stupid, they’re just sticking their heads in the sand. You’ve got to look past the gill netting and see the bigger picture.
“As in the medical world, the research and dissection of fish helps ensure that fish disease doesn’t spread and that other health problems can be quickly detected and analysed. And that isn’t only vital to the well- being and survival of pike at Windermere, but in every other predator fishery in the country,” said Gord.
Although the PAC would never promote the use of gill nets to take samples of pike from any water, it finds itself firmly in Gord’s corner when it comes to research that is proving vital to the health and survival of Windermere pike.
“The annual removal of fish from Windermere takes place in a controlled and scientific way, which is what many anglers don’t understand ¬ they seem unable to grasp the fact that the loss of a small number of adult fish has saved the lives of thousands over the years,” said PAC president Tim Kelly.
The CEH’s annual research began in 1940 and its detailed scientific analysis, together with the constant monitoring of the pike population, is the only study of its kind in the whole of the UK.
“Every fish killed is vital in our work to learn more about this species.
It’s a small price to pay to guarantee the survival and longevity of a species,” said Ian Winfield, leading CEH fish ecologist.
Top predator angler and Angling Times columnist Neville Fickling has also been quick to throw his full support behind the CEH research, slamming those anglers criticising the practice.
“The people who can’t see the importance of this work clearly can’t see the wood for the trees ¬ they don’t have a single brain cell between them.”
Catching the Impossible's Martin Bowler and angling legend John Wilson will be the guests of honour at a charity event organised by the Kings Arms Angling Club from Sandy in Bedfordshire.
The event is the fourth to be run by the club, with a view to raising funds for the Sue Ryder Hospice.
Everyone is welcome to the event, which takes place on 22nd February 2010 at the Holiday Inn Garden Court,, A1, Sandy, SG19 1NA. Tickets are priced at £10 and are available in advance only by calling 01767 223657. Doors open at 6.30pm, with the event starting at 7.30pm.
There will be a charity auction, raffle, bring and buy secondhand tackle stall, plus lots of great prizes on offer including fishing days on private lakes holding double-figure trout and 50lb carp, and pike fishing from boats with Bob Church and Mike Green.
As the camera continued to roll, the angler carefully ran his Avon float down the far-bank glide for the umpteenth time that afternoon, the orange tip still frustratingly visible as it bounced rhythmically in the flow. Only this time it suddenly disappeared.
A whoop of delight accompanied the bent rod and within seconds a twisting flash of silver was safely landed. It wasn¹t a huge grayling, perhaps no more than 1lb, but it was still a fish, and at the end of long day it was welcome.
Safely banked, the angler turned to the camera, removed it from the net and, with a single, swift and humane blow to the head, killed it stone dead.
There were no well-timed cut-aways, no clever edits and, especially telling, no mealy-mouthed apologies either. The fish was despatched and filmed in a manner that made it look exactly what it is an entirely natural process.
It was, after all, angling in its purest and most basic form: man wanting to catch a fish for the purpose of food.
That particular episode of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall¹s River Cottage Autumn series was watched by an audience of nearly two million people. And in this increasingly politically correct country famed for its love of animals, how many viewers do you think complained at the sight of the grayling being killed, filleted, smoked and then eaten? The sum total of exactly zero.
It isn¹t the first time that Fearnley-Whittingstall has caught and then killed for the camera either. The ethos behind the entire River Cottage project is self-sufficiency, and at some point throughout each of the series (and for the entirety of River Cottage: Gone Fishing) he has taken fish for the table. Yes, most have been from the sea, but common carp, grass carp, eels and pike have been on the menu too. None have ever caused his audience offence.
The general public, it seems, has absolutely no problem whatsoever with an angler eating what he catches whether they be more traditional sea species, or those less obvious ones that reside in freshwater.
Why? Because that same general public, rightly or wrongly, EXPECTS that to be the case. Fish are food. And that is the beginning and the end of the discussion.
Anglers, primarily those that target freshwater, do, of course, see their quarry in a different light entirely. They see them as sport, creatures to outwit, to enjoy for their sporting element as opposed to their taste. To them, the thought of killing what they catch is anathema.
But that really isn¹t how most of the country sees it. They see fish as an edible commodity regardless of origin. I am no great lover of Jeremy Clarkson, but in his recent column for the Sun newspaper he called it absolutely right.
Commenting on the abhorrent Tawainese video clip showing a carp being cooked and then eaten alive, he admitted, for the first time ever, that he felt a twinge of compassion for fish. Up until that point, he wrote, he had thought of them no different to vegetables. It¹s a telling comment.
While Clarkson¹s point might not be entirely wholly representative of the public, it does highlight just how low down the pecking order many people perceive fish to be. Even numerous supposed Œvegetarians¹, people who find the thought of meat deplorable, make exceptions for fish. And supermarkets happily display whole cod, bass, salmon, trout and mackerel on the fish counter when none, as far as I¹m aware, have yet to do the same with cows, sheep or pigs.
The point I¹m making is that fish are so inoffensive to the general public as to be almost invisible. As such, this misconception that angling is somehow under pressure from a growing band of antis is complete nonsense.
I keep reading in the AT letters¹ pages, or on internet websites, about these so-called antis and how we need to watch our backs at every turn. But you know what? I just don¹t buy it.
For far too long we have run scared of these supposedly all-powerful pressure groups, organisations like PETA who many within the sport believe watch our every move like hawks. If you listen to these anglers some of whom act like fishing¹s own version of the secret police you would believe that every badly held fish, every poorly presented catch picture, every odd-looking rig and every less than perfectly prepared bait will lead to our imminent demise.
Notwithstanding the fact that PETA and its like are run by deluded crackpots, for them to succeed they need the weight of public support behind them. And the public is no more anti-angling than it is anti-horse racing.
That is why Fearnley-Whittingstall is able to unceremoniously bludgeon a grayling to death without anyone giving a damn, and it¹s why the only people who complained about Robson Green¹s fish-handling during his very popular Extreme Fishing show were anglers themselves.
Look, I¹m not saying we shouldn¹t treat what we catch with both respect and care. To do that would be deeply irresponsible. But aren¹t we in danger of forgetting what we go fishing for in the first place? Yes, we can claim it¹s about being in the great outdoors, about enjoying the countryside and about connecting with nature. But ultimately we go because we want a fish first to be fooled into taking a baited hook, and then to enjoy the fight, or to amass as a big a weight as possible. Ironically and dangerously it could actually be this modern obsession with over-the-top fish welfare that, instead of shielding us from the tiny minority that may want angling banned, plays into their hands. The more we seek to protect what we catch, the more we make an unwitting admission of guilt. Remember, if we didn¹t want to cause a single moment of stress or pain then we wouldn¹t look to remove a fish from the water in the first place.
There is one example of this hypocrisy that is especially damning. On some waters, particularly those in the South, headstones have been erected to mark the place where the bodies of big, named, carp lay. Have you heard anything more ludicrous?
Not only does the humanisation of a fish give it a stature it doesn¹t deserve, but how can the same angler that sought to hunt a particular carp down, then mourn its death when he will undoubtedly have contributed to its demise? It is beyond my comprehension entirely. We seem to forget that fish are there, naturally or otherwise, for our pleasure or our table.
It¹s my opinion that we need to smash this myth seemingly perpetuated by some elements within fishing that the English public is anti-angling because it¹s patently not. The needless witch-hunts, provoked at the merest whiff of what these same people perceive as bad practice, has got to stop too. If it doesn¹t it will be us eroding our own rights and imposing our own rules, when in reality we have absolutely no reason to do so.
But, most crucially of all, we need to end the practice of apologising for being anglers. As we move into a more environmentally conscious era, a time when more and more of us are embracing outdoor pursuits with a renewed sense of vigour, fishing will only increase in popularity. One look at booming rod licence sales tells you that.
The public, as I¹ve said, are not anti-angling in the slightest. They may see us as eccentric, daft even, for wanting to spend our leisure time perched on a chair or box beside the water, but no more.
So when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall catches a fish, humanely knocks it on the head, prepares it for cooking and then eats it for his two million-plus audience, we should be thanking him for reinforcing something that seems to have been lost along the way. Because what he¹s doing isn¹t just the most natural thing in the world, it¹s also a very clear and a very public statement of what he is. Hugh¹s proud to be an angler and it¹s high time we all should be too.