Sales of fishing licences hit record levels during the closed season as more and more people turned to angling as a means of beating the recession blues.
Between the start of April and the end of May, more than 787,000 permits were sold – an increase of almost 20 per cent on the corres-ponding period last year, with all regions showing marked rises.
The late Easter, good weather and better enforcement by Environment Agency officials are being cited as the main reasons behind the spike, although positive spring sales in the tackle industry suggest that the sport as a whole is experiencing a surge in popularity.
And if the trend continues throughout 2009, annual sales of licences could easily hit 1.485 million, a massive 39 per cent rise on 2000 levels.
Guy Mawle, the EA’s fisheries policy manager, told Angling Times: “There’s no doubt about it, it’s a hell of a jump and we could be in for a cracking year. The sales this spring have been unprecedented, and a lot of this is probably down to anglers buying their annual licences early.
“That said, the sale of short-term one-day licences is also up 26 per cent, so who knows? We’ve seen this before – licence numbers going up during a recession - not only in this country but also in the US, where sales are up 11 per cent in the first quarter of this year.”
Unsurprisingly, the rapid growth in licence holders has led to increased customer numbers in tackle shops nationwide, with the vast majority of outlets contacted by AT experiencing a bumper period.
“Our sales have been excellent in the past few months, and it’s the same for just about everybody else I’ve spoken to recently in the trade. We’re seeing loads of people coming through the doors, buying everything from small bits like hooks, line and bait, right up to full set-ups,” said Mark Wilkinson, of Chapmans Angling.
“It’s not surprising – fishing is an inexpensive, relaxing and healthy pastime which gets people out and about and into the sunshine. It’s a welcome relief for many.”