Call for closed season U-turn

One of the UK’s biggest advocates of the closed season on our rivers admits he has now changed his mind and wants it shortened.

Steve Pope, chairman of the Barbel Society, claims that if the current three-month break from coarse fishing is not changed, fishing on running water could ‘die on its feet’ within the next decade.

And his thoughts have been echoed by more of the biggest names in the sport, who agree that Britain’s rivers should stay open for coarse fishing into April at least, following the crippling financial consequences of the recent floods.

Steve, who has spent his entire angling career fighting the corner of the traditional closed season between March 15th and June 15th, said:

“With flooding so regular now, the window for fishing rivers is getting shorter and shorter and the general consensus of experts is that weather patterns might be like this for the next 50 years. The dates of the closed season need to be revised, not for commercial gain but so that tackle shops and clubs which rely on this trade can survive.

Steve is proposing that the closed season runs the entire months of May and June after which, he says, most fish will have finished spawning.

“Most river anglers haven’t even been able to access a river for weeks, never mind wet a line, and the impact of this on shops near rivers must be devastating,” he said.“I don’t want the closed season abolished completely; I would never ever say that, because I think a break shows that we as anglers care about fish. I’ve campaigned to keep the current season for as long as I can remember, even organising petitions for it, but if it doesn’t change now I don’t think river fishing will be there for us in 10 years’ time.”
Top running-water anglers Bob Roberts, Dave Harrell and Des Taylor have added their weight to Steve’s proposal.

Des Taylor, who has seen the consequences of the floods in his home town of Bewdley, a noted angling tourism hotspot on the River Severn, said: “It’s time to put people’s lives first,” adding that his local shop Bewdley Tackle and Leisure took just £2.40 in sales on one recent Sunday. Owner Adam Sheriff told Angling Times that trade has been dire.
“If I took over £10 it was a good day and I know many others have been in the same boat. I’ve even had to cut opening hours just to save money on heating and electricity,” he said.


There may be some hope for struggling local tackle shops which rely on the trade from river anglers.

Last week The Angling Trust wrote to the Prime Minister and The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to request that some of the £10m government funding allocated for helping businesses affected by flooding be set aside for fishing tackle shops.

“Traditionally, tackle shops receive a much-needed late river-season boost in trade in February and March to keep them going, but they’ve missed that this year, said Angling Trust chief executive Mark Lloyd. “It’s so important to help and support these local tackle shops as much as we can, otherwise we could soon lose them.” Small to medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for grants up to £2,500, if they can prove that the worst UK flooding in 250 years has affected their income

Mark also revealed that the Trust had also pressed the Environment Agency to extend the river season for another three weeks into April this year because of the floods.

“Sadly, for legal reasons this cannot be done this year and would have to go to a statutory consultation because there may be opposition to it. That process would take far too long,” he said.