Support for an unprecedented change to the current closed season is mounting this week as fishing unites in a bid to reverse the effects of the sport’s worst winter in decades.
With the tackle industry struggling under the current economic climate and many of the nation’s rivers having been virtually unfishable since Christmas, the radical proposal would see the start of the closed season postponed until April 15 – giving anglers an extra month of fishing.
Some of the country’s most high-profile anglers, industry bosses and club officials have thrown their weight behind the switch, headed by TV star and Angling Times columnist Matt Hayes.
“I would be the first on the bank if this proposal was implemented because anglers could fish when the UK’s rivers are at their very best. It would have a far-reaching knock-on effect that would help the angling trade through this dark time,” said Matt.
“Many of my friends and other fishing traditionalists won’t thank me for saying this, but I think that there are few, if any, legitimate reasons to keep the closed season in place. Angling is in desperate need of a change.”
Matt’s fellow AT columnist Des Taylor is also of the opinion that the postponement is a ‘must’ and could mean the difference between survival and going under for some fishing businesses.
“I can’t remember a worse year for the tackle trade and if we don’t put pressure on the powers that be and pull together it could spell disaster for fishing. Let’s face it, you might as well write the rivers off for the majority of January and February, but like many other fishermen, March and April is my favourite time to be on the bank. Anglers on the rivers equal more punters in the shops buying tackle and day tickets. We’d be foolish not to act on this now,” he said.
It’s not just anglers who have thrown their weight behind the idea. All the tackle shops and fishing clubs contacted by Angling Times were keen to emphasise just how dire things have been for them over the past few months. They see the proposal as a lifeline.
“There’s no doubt that an extra four weeks would be a great idea from a business point of view because the closed season is a notoriously difficult time for tackle shops. An additional month of sales could keep some businesses afloat,” said Mark Wilkinson, general manager of Chapman’s Angling – one of the biggest tackle retailers in the North of England.
John Williams, chairman of Birmingham Anglers Association – one of the largest and most popular clubs in the country – firmly believes that it is the most proactive and welcome idea he has heard put forward for many years.
“How can the powers that be, such as the Environment Agency, not realise that this change to the current season is a realistic and achievable solution to the current problems? It will help clubs like us, who are 500 members down on this time last year, to attract more anglers to running-water venues,” he said.
Though many are 100 per cent behind the scheme, Stephen McCaveny, marketing manager of Daiwa Sports, is able to see both the pros and cons of a postponement.
“Any initiative that is in the interest of our sport should be considered. However, delaying or shortening the river closed season is a tricky subject and raises a whole host of questions. Apart from the ethics involved, there are logistical issues too, and I just can’t see it happening.
“We must remember that from mid-March to mid-June it will only have ramifications for shops highly reliant on business from anglers going coarse fishing on rivers in England and Wales. There are other sectors unaffected by that – the commercial stillwater network will carry on, most carp lakes are open, the game season will be in full flow and the sea scene doesn’t stop.”
Despite the groundswell of opinion being in favour of the proposal, it ultimately looks set to fall on deaf ears with the Environment Agency, which is seemingly reluctant to put the wheels of change in motion.
“We appreciate that some anglers would like to continue coarse fishing on rivers. But even if a partial suspension of the closed season were appropriate, the law would have to be changed which couldn’t be done in that timescale,” said a spokesman.