As it is ‘that time of year’, I thought I’d give you some ideas of what I would like to see happen in the next year and beyond. After all, The Noughties are nearly gone and we are about to enter the Troubled Teens
1 First, I would like to see the Angling Trust achieve proper recognition by anglers but, as a realist, I know that isn’t going to happen because not enough of them know, or care, about it. With that in mind, the Trust must start a campaign to become THE force in angling politics.
It has recently been quoted - and possibly misquoted, as I never got to the real bottom of it - as saying that it will campaign AGAINST a rod licence for sea fishing.
If that is the case, I believe that the Trust should cast aside all concept of representing sea anglers, who neither want, nor respect, representation, and concentrate on those who are prepared to pay for their sport. So, No1 on my wish list - kick sea angling out of the Angling Trust.
Now, being able to concentrate properly on those who pay for their sport, it is time to vigorously campaign for real recognition by the Government and be given the chance to issue rod licences, or at least sell them on the Government’s behalf. If individual doctors can be charged with running their own little health service for their patients, surely angling, in particular sport anglers who are nett givers to the environment, should be charged with running itself.
2 A cut of the licence fee or, even better, cut FREE from the licence fee and granted autonomy. When that is done, maybe the Trust could turn its attention to what have become known as commercial fisheries and actually put some controls and checks in place. To my mind, the concept of digging a lake, filling it with water then invasive species - imported carp hybrids being top of my particular dislike list - and simply allowing people with little or no skill to catch them, is morally reprehensible.
I am certain someone couldn’t just start a farm or a zoo in the same manner, so while we complain about the lack of respect everyone other than anglers afford fish, we actually pour the ultimate disrespect upon them.
3 No-one would be allowed to open a fishery without certified fishery management knowledge.
4 No fishing for fish in a newly-stocked lake for a minimum of nine months.
That will keep the Johnny-come-lately cash grabbers away. If fish are looked on as an investment demanding a return, we are on a very slippery slope.
5 Next, we must resume some kind of control over our river and canal banks.
Many canals and some rivers are now either unfishable, or unsafe, due to outside interference that contributes nothing to their upkeep.
The main two undesirables are cyclists riding their bikes where no bikes should be ridden, and boats that simply moor up and stay put. How on this earth anyone thinks it is a good idea to have bikes riding willy-nilly along what are public footpaths is beyond me.
There are no signs asking cyclists to ride carefully, no indication of who has right of way - it won’t be anglers, you can bet on that, even though we pay - indeed, there is just no control. That is wrong.
As for the people who have just decided to leave the rat race and live on our waterways for free, well would you like them pitching a tent outside your house?
So, let’s clean up the waterways. I was once told by a British Waterways spokesman that there isn’t much you can do with a huge barge that hasn’t paid its licence, lived on by people who don’t exist. Don’t they have cranes any more?
6 I want anglers to have a voice that’s strident and supportive of angling in Parliament. I am disappointed at the apparent lack of visibility of Martin Salter’s replacement, Charles Walker MP, especially as he has the River Lea at the very heart of his constituency.
And, while I’m at it, I don’t know what has happened to the assurances given by Mr Benyon, boss of Defra. Once again, the commercial sea fishing interests seem to be getting not only a larger slice of the marine cake than that to which they are entitled, but the whole cake, stand and table that the stand sits on!
7 Finally, I hope and pray that the great upswing in sport enjoyed by so many river anglers continues.
I know that some rivers, mostly small ones, are in possibly terminal decline through predation - although my opinion and general observation is that abstraction and degradation are the root and branch of the problem - but many of the bigger rivers have been quietly improving, year on year, not necessarily with just the size of the existing ancient fish living there increasing, but numbers of ‘pleasure’ fish - roach, dace, perch, even small chub and skimmer bream that are now around.
If it keeps going, we might even start seeing anglers becoming sick of every-cast-a carp, and learning how to fish again.