Environment Agency swoop on river fishing match... but it was totally legal

The Environment Agency has admitted that the current rules surrounding the closed season on rivers need changing after a protest match took place last week on the Severn.

Ten members of Willow Creek AC attended the contest at Bewdley in a bid to highlight what they described as the ‘farcical’ situation surrounding the laws relating to the three month lay-off on running water.

Despite the anglers fishing with worms, prawns and catching barbel, the EA officers who attended were powerless to stop the event because nobody was breaking any rules.

Current EA legislation stipulates that anyone can fish the Severn during the closed season as long as they do so with the intention of catching eels. Specific tackle – including a hook with a gape of no less than half-an-inch and either worms, prawns, shrimps or minnows as bait – must be used but this doesn’t stop ‘accidental’ catches of coarse fish like barbel. And it’s that loophole that EA officials admit is causing a nightmare when it comes to policing the banks.

“There are many grey areas and I wouldn’t be at all sorry to see the laws that allow anglers to bait fish for eels changed,” said EA fisheries environmental crime team leader Al Watson.

“When we approach anglers we must check that their tackle and bait is within the law, and also ask them what they are fishing for. If they say ‘eels’ then they are fishing totally within the law.

“All those fishing the match on the Severn were doing things exactly by the book.Without anglers admitting to an enforcement officer that they are purposely fishing for barbel or roach it’s very difficult for us to prove otherwise.”

Jason Ford, organiser of the recent anti closed season contest on the Severn, thinks that anglers being able to legally fish for coarse fish before June 16 makes an even bigger mockery of the current laws.

“To add insult to injury, one of the officers that visited us on the day of the contest didn’t even know the ins and outs of the byelaws and tried to unfairly  prosecute one of our anglers ,” said Jason. “We will be running many more matches in the run-up to June 16 just to prove the ridiculousness of the current closed season and continue to fight for the need for change.”