Anglers are calling for a major overhaul of the rod-licence system in a battle to educate Eastern European poachers about the UK’s catch-and-release ethic.
For the past few seasons, fish thieves have plagued venues up and down the country and it is now being suggested that the Environment Agency should employ another country’s approach to angling in order to beat the growing problem.
Strict laws in Germany insist that individuals wanting to take up angling must first go a rigorous and lengthy vetting process to ensure that they are knowledgeable in key areas before they are free to go fishing.
Newcomers to the sport must join a registered club, before purchasing a permit which allows them to possess fishing tackle.
They must then complete an apprenticeship under the tutelage of an experienced angler, before taking practical and theoretical exams on tackle, health and safety, fish recognition and conservation.
Only once they have completed this gruelling schedule will officials allow them to own a full licence.
Those who have witnessed the German format first-hand have been so impressed by the results that they think it could provide the solution to UK problems.
“Everybody plays by the rules and they are strictly implemented. The system makes sure everybody is competent and teaches everyone the ethics of angling,” said former soldier and keen fisherman Alan Draycott, who served in Germany for several years.
“If all anglers, including Eastern Europeans, were made to take a similar examination in the UK before being allowed to fish, and if they had to produce their permits before being sold a day ticket, then perhaps fishery owners wouldn’t have to go to such ridiculous lengths to protect their fish,” suggested Alan.
Fisheries bosses have unsuccessfully employed a variety of techniques to defend their waters from thieves, and Cudmore Fishery chief Cyril Brewster believes such a system could play a vital part in the sport’s future.
“Not enough anglers are aware of the basics of the sport. Lessons and tests on subjects such as health and safety, fish welfare and catch and release would help improve people’s knowledge of our angling ethos,” said Cyril.
Despite the calls, EA officials believe the proposals would have a detrimental effect, as angling participation manager Richard Wightman explained: “The need for such measures is unproven and they would be expensive to administer. They would sit uncomfortably with our angling culture which celebrates escapism and relaxation and the drive toward modern, proportionate regulation.”