Law breakers are wrong over their illegal river match says Keith Arthur

I know it was April Fools Day last week but when I read that a few people that go fishing (I’m not going to credit them as anglers) were going to break the law to fish a match on the River Severn during the closed season, I thought it might be a joke. Apparently it isn’t!

Let’s take their argument and nicely disassemble it. First the idea that being able to fish rivers during what has been the closed season for over 100 years will benefit clubs that control fishing there is likely to be wrong, as was proved when another West Midlands minority got the closed season on canals abolished. Since that date many clubs have given up their fishing on canals because not enough people want to fish them, whatever time of year. The situation with rivers is the same.

Now let’s look at some facts. Fishing in countries where there is no closed season has caused sport to decline in dramatic fashion, especially match fishing.

The classic examples are Ireland, Northern Ireland and Denmark. Thirty years ago sport was mostly brilliant, always between mid-April and late May, when the main target species, bream and roach, gather in huge migrations to spawn. Over time it has deteriorated dramatically and the days of bagging roach and bream at 10 metres to hand have gone.

Angling holiday companies now have people touring round looking for places that haven’t been match fished during the closed season because sport in those places is still fantastic. Doesn’t that make a little light turn on in your head?

A micro example would be the Sillees River, where Peter Burrell broke the then World five-hour match record with 266lb of roach. They came every year – so many the river level raised enough for them to negotiate a natural weir to reach the spawning gravels.

Five years of closed season matches and the fish had gone.

Is that a risk these law-breakers are prepared to take? It does only seem to be the Severn that encourages these thoughts of abolition too, yet the area is awash with commercial fisheries where those with no control and a fishing addiction can go.

As for the EA spending money on research into whether the closed season is needed, well I’m afraid I and the massive majority of anglers that want the closed season to remain on rivers don’t want our money wasted on something that the NRA did before lifting the closed season on stillwaters. Research, neatly forgotten, into whether there was a chance fishing would be detrimental to fish shoaling to spawn.

If they want it that badly, rather than waste their money on pools, bait and the feeders they’ll lose, why not start a fund to conduct their research? Join ‘Dave’s Big Society’ and make things happen. But I don’t want a single penny of the money I invest in angling, through my rod licence and Angling Trust membership squandered on something that a tiny minority on one river think is their right.

If you want it, you pay for it.