The North-East’s coarse anglers are calling for more protection from the Environment Agency after a series of confrontations with game anglers.
Proposals in the new Marine Bill to stop anglers removing rod-caught coarse fish have reignited an age-old battle between the two factions, with recent meetings to discuss the forthcoming law changes descending into near chaos.
The North-East is traditionally a game fishing stronghold, where coarse anglers claim barbel and pike are regularly thrown up the bank to die by fly fishermen concerned only with salmon and trout.
Under the new proposals, such barbaric practices would be outlawed, but large sections of the game fishing community are reported to be reluctant to take the changes on board.
John Hepworth, secretary of Durham City AC, attended a recent regional fisheries forum, organised by the EA, where the two groups came face to face.
“When the EA revealed the proposed byelaws for protecting coarse fish, it almost caused heart attacks among the game anglers present,” he said.
“Game anglers routinely kill barbel on the Wear and there are even rules banning the use of fixed spool reels on the River Derwent. It’s madness - we need help from the EA. The fisheries guys on the ground are great, but they’re lions led by donkeys,” he added.
In recent years, coarse anglers have reported dozens of ugly clashes with game anglers who, they feel, show a lack of respect for coarse stocks and anglers from other disciplines.
“Our tickets cost less than theirs and as a result game anglers often behave as though they have more right to be fishing the river than us,” said local specimen angler and British dace record holder Simon Ashton.
However, representatives of the local game angling community contacted by Angling Times refused to acknowledge there was a large-scale problem in the North-East, claiming minor isolated confrontations have been blown out of proportion.
“I believe that there is minimal conflict, but a few incidents can paint the wrong picture,” said Trout & Salmon Association regional chairman Chris Noble.
“It isn’t unusual for various factions to complain they’re not getting fair treatment but, in the main, I think the EA maintains a good balance. I’m in a mixed discipline club and we all manage to get along,” he added.