Responsible angling: a sport worth looking after

I have been an angler since the age of 4 (far more years than I am prepared to admit!) and been privileged to work for the Environment Agency’s fisheries team in a variety of roles for over 25 years.

It’s potentially because of my work that I have never lost the love of angling and perhaps have a greater appreciation of all that goes into this amazing sport. There is nothing to beat the excitement of a float going under or a rod tip arching over, but to keep the opportunities for such excitement alive, a lot of work is put into looking after stillwater fisheries.

To keep fisheries in top shape, owners manage habitat, stocking levels and fishing practices sometimes at great expense to ensure stocks are maintained and everyone can have an enjoyable day’s fishing. The Environment Agency provides key support for this work both practically through funding, incident response where necessary and with advice and guidance. You would be amazed at just how many fisheries we have helped over the years and with our partnership with the Angling Trust we are in an excellent position to ensure the continued success of the sport.

SC perch

However, as a keen angler, I realise that it’s not enough to leave it down to others. Over the years I have seen many anglers doing things which are detrimental to the fisheries they visit. We all have a key role to play in making sure our fisheries are in fine fetal and everyone has a good experience. Hopefully these tips will help.

Don’t let your sport get rubbished: When you go fishing make sure you pick up any discarded tackle or litter that you see. It’s not just unpleasant to look at but it can be dangerous for wildlife. I have more than once had to disentangle birds from discarded line and got a sharp pecking for my trouble! I always have a bag to put rubbish in and take it home for proper disposal.

Handle with care: You can do a lot to make sure the fish are kept in good condition:

  • Only handle fish with wet hands. I see lots of people holding them in towels which rubs the protective ‘slime’ off and leaves them vulnerable to diseases. Towels should be for drying your hands, not for holding fish.
  • Make sure you hold your catch long enough in the water before releasing it to ensure it is strong enough to swim off and is reasonably un-dazed
  • Make sure you have correct equipment for unhooking your catch so you cause the least damage possible

Feed fish not problems: You can also help out your local fishery owner by thinking about the way that you fish. If you use ground bait, don’t put too much in the water. If it isn’t eaten it will go rotten on the bottom and takes vital oxygen out of the water, not to mention causing potentially harmful algal blooms due to an overload in nutrients. In the summer particularly this could lead to fish deaths which no-one wants to see, least of all the fishery owner who has to dispose of the dead fish and restock with new ones, all of which increases costs.

CHECK CLEAN DRY: When you travel between fisheries you run the risk of spreading fish diseases or even alien species. This can result in a fishery’s closure and could ruin your sport. One of the best ways of making sure this doesn’t happen is to keep your tackle clean and dry between fishing trips. Simply hanging nets out to dry will drastically reduce the risk of spreading diseases. Some fisheries will provide disinfectant equipment or dips for your gear so make sure you use it or follow the fishery’s own procedures – they will be there for good reason.

2015 nets drying on line (2)
Nets drying on the line

Finally – if you do see fish in distress, don’t just assume someone will do something about it. If you are on a lake, phone the owner but if you are on a river, phone the Environment Agency on our incident hotline 0800 80 70 60. We will help where we can.

I love my fishing and I am very proud of the work the Agency does to support angling and protect fish and fisheries and like the majority of anglers I will always try to do my bit to help protect fisheries, the sport and its reputation for generations to come

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