The country’s biggest fishing club has banned livebaiting and introduced a catch-and-release policy for all fish except zander.
Birmingham Angling Association has taken the measures to coincide with new national fish removal byelaws from the Environment Agency which come into force next month.
And, as part of a move that is sure to cause controversy with predator anglers, BAA club secretary John Williams has branded livebaiting an ‘outdated’ practise and is urging other clubs to outlaw tactic.
The 11,500 member-strong organisation controls a huge portfolio of waters, including the Warks Avon, Severn and Trent, and a network of canals from the Staffs and Worcester to the Trent and Mersey.
But many anglers fear that the move could spell disaster for pike and zander fishing on these venues, with the Pike Anglers’ Club of Great Britain (PAC) requesting an explanation and an immediate review of the policy, while Angling Times columnist Des Taylor has pointed to the ‘selfish’ actions of some pikers as the cause.
“I don’t agree with the decision, but I don’t blame the club for making it because I know a lot of irresponsible pikers use their own illegal livebaits and release them at the end of the day,” said Des.
“Livebaiting is the most natural form of predator angling. It’s all about the predator-prey scenario. You’re giving the fish what they want. It’s a very exciting way to fish and I’ll continue to do it for as long as I can,” insisted Des.
Tim Kelly, president of the PAC, fears the implications BAA’s ruling could have for its members.
“If this is a decision made on fish conservation grounds, then I’d have to point out the effect of taking a few livebaits is minimal. Livebaiting is the main method used for catching big pike and zander on the Severn and the Warks Avon and most of the anglers who fish these waters in the winter are predator fans. The banks could end up devoid of fishermen for half the year,” he said.
But John Williams claims that it would have been ‘hypocritical’ of the club to insist that some anglers release fish, while others were still allowed to take some for live and deadbaits.
“The decision was unanimous by our committee,” said John. “We should be able to enjoy catching fish, photographing them and then put them back so we can catch them again. The BAA has taken a lead here and we would like to see other associations introduce similar, or more stringent, rules.
“Zander are alien to the UK and are damaging stocks of roach, dace and gudgeon on our rivers and canals, that’s why they haven’t been given the same protection as other species,” said John.