Fisheries shut up shop as cold bites

The big freeze has cost the angling industry millions of pounds in lost revenue, with fishery owners, tackle shops and manufacturers all reeling from the longest period of Arctic weather to hit the K for almost 30 years.

Stillwater venue bosses have battled in vain to keep their waters free from ice and, with the majority of rivers rising to dangerously high levels, anglers have been forced to put their sport on hold.

One such fishery owner left counting the cost is Tony Bridgefoot, whose on hugely-popular day-ticket complex, Bluebell Lakes, has been virtually devoid of anglers since before Christmas.

He said: "The freeze has cost me over £10,000 so far and that figure will continue to rise if it carries on into February. I'd have expected a busy period over Christmas and New Year, but there's not been a bivvy in sight as the lakes are frozen. You have to budget for bad weather, but this has come completely out of the blue."

It has been a similar story at the nation's major commercial complexes, where anglers have made failed attempts to find a fishable spot.

"We've had to cancel tons of matches. People have been coming to the fishery expecting us to have a little corner clear, but every inch has been frozen solid. It's been very tough and over the Christmas period we made around £40 from pleasure anglers ­ a figure we'd normally expect to be closer to £1,500," said Makins Fishery owner Alan Mciarmid.

Tackle shops have also struggled to keep their tills ringing over Christmas. Worksop Angling Supplies chief Greg Forrester said: "We've had heavy snow in the area for over three weeks an people simply can't get to the shop. We are selling literally no bait and it's currently costing me over £1,000 a week in lost trade. You expect a bit of snow, but I've never known the weather to get this bad in all my life."

While many will struggle to recall a period which tested angling's resolve to such a degree, coarse and game fishing legend Bob Church remembers a time when conditions were even worse.

"In 1963, the big freeze started early, just like this one, and went on for three full months! The River Nene even froze over in place and, while it was iced up, a slug of pollutant went through under the ice ad killed all the fish along a 30-mile length. So, as bad as it seems right now, it could be worse!"