Some of the best roach-fishing pegs in the country could be lost to angling if contentious plans by the canoeing community are given the green light.
The match length of the River Wye in Hereford has long been famed for its bumper silverfish stocks, with contests regularly producing nets of roach and dace in the 60lb to 70lb bracket.
But the stretch now faces an uncertain future after it was revealed that the Environment Agency has turned down plans for 40 wooden fishing platforms, while at the same time clearing the way for concrete ‘canoe launches’ to be built.
This has angered the local fishing community, and Hereford Angling Club chairman Chris James has warned that the club will not sit idly by and watch canoeists being favoured over fishermen.
“We own the bed of the river on that stretch, yet haven’t even been asked for our opinions. The first the club knew about the canoe launches was when planning applications were posted on a few bankside posts. The whole process has been underhand,” he said.
When contacted, the EA insisted that it was important for ‘potentially competing interests to find ways of using the river harmoniously’. A spokesperson told Angling Times: “We hope that the new access steps (canoe launch) in Hereford will provide a facility that may be of use to anglers, too. Wooden platforms, as used by anglers, have proved unsuccessful on similar spate rivers. After two years they are washed away, or in a condition that is not repairable.”
l Further north, anglers and canoeists are also set to clash on South Yorkshire’s River Dearne, where EA officer Richard Atkinson plans to open up a stretch to canoeists from Darfield to Manvers, near Barnsley, via a launch site.
But venue regulars, including specimen angler Duncan Mellors, fear that it will destroy the fishing.
“Canoeing is entirely unsustainable here – it is only 18ins to 3ft deep and 15ft to 20ft wide. It would cause damage to the environment under section two of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act. The recreational officer is a canoeist himself, and no angling-based organisations were even consulted in this,” said Duncan.
Maver Barnsley Blacks legend Denis White has taken chub to 5lb 8oz from the Dearne and fails to comprehend how canoeists will negotiate the waterway.
“A lot of it is ankle-deep, so they will spend more time carrying their canoes than paddling them! This decision is crackers,” he said.
However, Chris Hawkesworth, national facilities manager for the British Canoe Union, disagrees.
“The Dearne is paddled regularly and there are lots of fish about. There is no problem with canoeing here. We’ve worked with an angling club to improve Darfield weir and also created a fish pass there.”
Objections to the Dearne plans have already been raised by local councillors, John Healey MP, local residents and fisheries advisory committees.