Closed season is here to stay

The Environment Agency has made the controversial decision to retain the current coarse fishing closed season on rivers throughout the UK.

The news follows the results of an eight-week public consultation carried out earlier this year. Many of the 13,680 respondents agreed that abolishing the closed season would pose a potential risk to coarse fish. 

River scenic (c) Angling Times.jpg

In addition, the EA maintains that while changing the start or finish dates of the season would protect some species, it would have an adverse effect on others.

In the consultation, 38.8 per cent of respondents wanted to keep the closed season, 9.2 per cent voted to change the dates, and 49.8 per cent wanted to scrap it altogether. 

The decision has angered some sections of the angling community, prompting Kevin Austin, the EA’s deputy director of fisheries, to comment: “We recognise that some anglers will be disappointed with this outcome, while others will welcome it. This reflects a shared passion for fishing.”

As well using the consultation responses, the EA also relied on the experience of the team at its Calverton Fish Farm, who noted that chub and barbel are sensitive to spawning ground disturbance.

“We have analysed the many comments from the 13,680 responses to understand the evidence and opinions around the closed season,” added Kevin. “Given the limited further evidence on risks to coarse and other fish stocks, we have decided to retain it.

“We will continue working with partners to consider any new information on the closed season, as and when it becomes available.”

What our readers think

Craig Cook 

“Brilliant, the magical first day will remain and we can spend three months looking at our favourite river planning for that magical June 16.”

John Turner 

“What a complete waste of time that was – the vote was overwhelming to scrap it!”

James Oates

“Glad they have kept it and not given in to people’s greed. That magical day will stay magical.”

Lee Crisp 

“Backwards attitude. Fish don’t always spawn in the closed season – it should be down to people that run/own the water if they want to close it.”

Gary Armiger 

“What an absolute waste of time and money. Ignore the result, well done EA, continue to ‘protect’ river fish in rivers that are hardly fished any more.”

Three big names have their say

Dave Harrell 

“I was very disappointed to learn that the EA employees in charge of making the decisions have decided to keep the 1878 closed season law on rivers. 

“I truly believe now that the EA individuals were only paying lip service to us all along. 

“They were pushed into a corner to carry out a survey, and when the majority of the initial small consultation voted in favour of change, they then had to carry out a full consultation.

“I honestly believe now that even if 90 per cent had gone for abolition, it still wouldn’t have been scrapped.

“I personally feel that I’ve wasted an awful lot of my own time on this campaign, but I did it because I believed (and still do) that the river closed season law of 1878 needed changing.

“River fishing is in decline, and the EA’s decision will keep it going in that direction.”

Paul ‘Woody’ Woodward
woody’s Angling Centre, Hereford

“The way I see it, we should have changed the dates and moved the closed season back to the months of June and July, when the river is warm and the fish actually spawn.

“All year long we feed the fish high-protein baits, but when they come out of their winter dormancy and are looking for food we can’t feed them because the rivers are closed to angling.

“This is the time when fish need to eat the most, and the more food they get, the higher the quality their milt and eggs will be, so spawning will be more successful.

“It’s just the way nature is, and I don’t see why we can’t follow this natural cycle with our fishing season.

“I’d be happy for all fisheries to shut during June and July – and I sell bait and tackle! It’s for the good of the fish.”

TV Star and Specimen Angler Dean Macey

“In my opinion it’s good news that the EA decided to retain the closed season. However, I’m fully behind the idea of changing the dates to protect the fish through the summer months.

“For example, close the rivers on May 1 and reopen them in August, or even September.

“I’m not sure if what was good for the fish decades ago is the same nowadays.”