Close season rethink?

River close season – Is it time for a rethink?

In many parts of the country river anglers are coming to terms with an effective 6 month shutdown giving the annual close season debate an added intensity. In addition, the recent devastating floods have hit fisheries, tackle shops and the tackle trade particularly hard this year causing the Angling Trust to write to the Prime Minister arguing that these businesses should be included in the floods compensation measures. In response the Trust has decided to actively engage in the river close season issue and to seek a wide variety of views from anglers and fishery managers prior to making any formal approaches to the Environment Agency or to government.

A special river close season page has been established on the Angling Trust website in order to host articles on the issue. The debate has been kicked off by the Trust’s Campaign Chief Martin Salter who, despite being a long time supporter of the close season, argues in his latest blog that the lack of science behind the current closure means that it is difficult to justify continuing as we are without the benefit of study into the impacts of any changes.

In his article Martin says: 

'The Environment Agency’s position on rivers remains that it feels it must take the precautionary stance of retaining the close season, until such time that it can be confident that removing it wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on fish populations. Its view is that this evidence could only be provided by an appropriate study being undertaken.Those advocating change need to accept that there is no way the close season will be altered in this country until such a study has been carried out. I hope all anglers will agree with this for as much as some may want to be able to fish on rivers all year round they certainly shouldn't  want to do anything that might detrimentally affect the very fish populations that our sport relies upon. The existing close season does not have a huge basis in science and is due for review and part of this review could include an experiment in a specific catchment.'

He goes on… 

'Dace and pike are the early spawners, often in March, followed by a lull in April. Roach and perch tend to spawn next and then chub and barbel in May / June. So I guess there's an argument for closing the river pike season off on March 1st and shifting the river break to May and June. This way we would be delivering a longer river season without unduly compromising our conservation credentials. Although I am clear that the EA should lead the process of reviewing the river close season I believe that the Angling Trust should stand ready to facilitate, as we have in the past.'

Angling Trust CEO Mark Lloyd added: 

'The Angling Trust will not take any formal position in lobbying for a change in the river close season until we see what the evidence would be on fish stocks and the views of our members and the various groups of anglers. As an organisation committed to conservation, it would be irresponsible of us to do anything else. However, we do accept that this is a live issue and we want anglers on both sides of this debate to have their voices heard and for the arguments to be tested.'