Keith Arthur - day ticket sales will be a worry this summer

The fact that rod licence sales are down by seven per cent - a significant but not really substantial amount - is concerning. Of course it isn’t anywhere near as bad as a glance at the graph depicting the downturn as featured in last week’s AT, where the figure appeared to be at its lowest since 2002 - but sales are down.

However, like many statistics, this hides a far more worrying trend - the sale of day tickets at commercial fisheries. A very reliable source within the trade told me that, at a recent meeting with commercial fishery owners, drops of 60-70 per cent on sales compared to the same time last year were reported as ‘not unusual’.

Last weekend was a crunch time as, for almost the first time this year, the forecast was for warm weather with some sun. It could be the time when many anglers set foot outside for the first time this year and rod licence - and day ticket sales - should have reflected that.

Remember that the EA sales figures reflect all sales, including short-term (one day and month) licences as well as annual. The annual figures may not be down but the short term sales may be - they all count the same.

Last spring was not bad, but June was dreadful. This year’s World Cup may balance that, but it remains to be seen.

However, while licence sales may come back to a par which, if a considered opinion were taken, would be down on last year’s numbers because that was an all-time high. The trend could still be upwards, but the worrying aspect is that day ticket sales and turnover at fisheries will be much more difficult to restore to even 2008/9 figures.

The knock-on effect has been felt in tackle shops, too, with ‘terrible’ figures being reported by many. Lots of shops are on a knife-edge anyway.

Ridiculously low major-ticket-item tackle prices are making it increasingly difficult to earn enough profit to pay the rent, and a real-term increase in customer numbers is essential to keep the shops going.

Never mind the EA budget ¬things are a lot tougher for many other parts of the industry.