There are now more anglers going fishing than at any time in the last decade, according to the latest rod licence sales figures for the 2008/09 season.
The Environment Agency this week confirmed it had sold 1,333,544 licences by the end of December - up 20,000 on the same period the season before - and predicted it should sell at least 1,372,000 by the end of March.
The figures confirm that angling is becoming an increasingly attractive leisure pursuit that combines value-for-money with a healthy and relaxing outdoor lifestyle.
But EA bosses are identifying a number of other reasons for the sport’s ever-growing popularity, not least its own improved marketing, enforcement and high profile prosecution of evaders.
“Other western countries, such as the USA, France and Canada, have seen fishing licence sales decline. We’ve bucked that trend and there’s no doubt that our marketing and enforcement campaigns have been very effective,” said EA fisheries policy manager Dr Guy Mawle.
“We remind anglers to renew their licences and have boosted the number of anglers fishing by increasing information available on opportunities to fish. We’ve also become better at finding and prosecuting evaders and publicising their convictions,” he added.
The EA continues to spend the extra money from increased sales on improving fisheries and promoting the sport, especially among youngsters and in more deprived inner city areas.
“The more licences we sell, the better the fishing and the more anglers there are, which in turn help us sell even more licences the next season,” added Guy.
Perhaps the most revealing of the statistics released by the Agency is the proportion of anglers who buy one-day or eight-day licences ¬ over 350,000.
The sport’s long-term aim is to convert as many of these ‘part-time’, occasional anglers into ‘full licence’ holders, meaning more cash is invested in fisheries and more newcomers get introduced.