Greg Dytkowski, Fisheries Enforcement Officer in East Midlands, discusses his role at the Environment Agency and why the coarse fishing close season is vital for our fish stocks.
Every year, between March and June, our rivers start to reawaken, meaning the coarse fish close season is upon us.
The close season runs from March 15th to June 15th inclusive and is a really important time for fish. Many will be preparing to spawn, spawning, or recovering from spawning, which can be both stressful and exhausting.
For some anglers, the close season offers a chance to hang up their rods for a short time and for others, it provides an opportunity to mix up their routine and switch to canal and lake fisheries. It’s something that’s not always well understood with confusion sometimes arising around the dates and where the close season applies. In this blog, I hope to give you some background as to why it’s there and how we enforce it.
My name is Greg, and I am a Fisheries Enforcement Officer for the Environment Agency in the East Midlands. I have worked in the fisheries enforcement team for over three years now. It’s my dream job as my passion is protecting fisheries and angling.
I have also worked as part of the Building Bridges team with the Angling Trust, helping educate and welcome foreign nationals to the sport and informing them of fishing rules and etiquette in England. This is something I am still passionate about as we want to encourage everyone to give fishing a go and help make fishing a sport that is inclusive and diverse.
I’m an angler myself and it’s easy to ask, ‘will I really impact spawning fish by going fishing’? Yes, is the answer. If they are disturbed, they may well decide to stop. This is not only stressful for the fish but also means they’ve lost their chance, not only this time, but for the whole year! Areas where fish spawn can also be open to damage, with eggs nestling directly in weeds, gravel, tree roots or even in your keepnet. Young fish, known as fry, that emerge from the eggs can be sensitive to silt disturbance, low oxygen and trampling.
In fact, protecting spawning fish is so important there is separate legislation under section 2 of the Salmon and Freshwater fisheries act that makes it an offence to disturb spawning fish, or the areas they use.
Day-to-day, I spend much of my time ensuring anglers have valid fishing licences and that they are following fisheries law. The service I and the rest of my colleagues provide is primarily funded by fishing licence income. Our work not only protects the sport of but enhances the wider work we deliver to enhance fisheries and promote fishing.
Throughout the close season, myself and other Environment Agency officers conduct patrols to enforce it. As part of Operation CLAMPDOWN, which is celebrating its 10th year in 2022, Angling Trust volunteers support our officers by being our eyes and ears on riverbanks and reporting incidents to our 24-hour incident hotline 0800 80 70 60.
Ensuring rivers are not fished during the close season is a big priority for our teams. It helps protect our beloved coarse fish stocks and ensures spawning fish have the best chance to sustain their populations for the future. Coarse fishing in rivers, streams and drains as well as some canals and stillwaters within specified ‘sites of special scientific interest’ from 15th March to 15th June is an offence under Environment Agency National Bylaws and may land you with enforcement action and a fine upon conviction by the courts. The maximum fine is £50,000
The close season is chosen in this period to cover as many spawning species as possible to offer the most protection. If you do still want to get out, there are loads of places you can visit while this closure is in place such as many stillwaters and canals, depending on landowner agreement. You could even try your hand at trout fishing, though a valid fishing licence is still required.
If you know anyone that’s just started fishing for the first time, we ask that you not only remind them of the close season dates, but also explain why we enforce it. If you see fish spawning why not stop to watch them – it’s an amazing sight! But please keep your distance and avoid disturbance of any kind. By staying back, you’ll be able to watch their offspring spawning one day too.
I look forward to meeting you on the river bank at the start of the fishing season on June 16th.
Comment by John Rochford posted on
I agree totally that the close season should be kept, it not only provides the fish chance to spawn but also rests the same in fisheries that are heavily fished. My one concern is about canals/commercial waters, fish also need time to spawn how do we protect the same in these waters?? As you will be aware they are open year round and owners do not consider the spawning of fish, they seem to be only interested in money making which in many respects is not looking after the stock they have. Do they get checked on or just left alone??
Comment by Ian moore posted on
Why are boats, kyaks,canoes,walkers swimmers etc not banned from useing the rivers at this time as well??? The ea even announce sections of rivers closed so boat races and regraters can still go ahead!!!! Surly these activertys do as much if not more damage to rivers and canals as would a few anglers fishing catch and reliese!!!!!
Comment by Mark Burton posted on
Hello I was always led to believe salmon are in our rivers to spawn ! But it is ok to catch them .
Are all the new fish ladders installed to get our fish stocks up to the next level … out the way of mr Otter! Are the laws there to suit us or the fish!If they are to suit the fish , why release otters without a case study . Can’t the group responsible pay to restock rivers , lakes & so many garden ponds mr Otter likes. So back to the point , the close season is there to protect out fish stocks. How about pollution, from our ever increasing population & under sized treatment plants that flow over into rivers.
I love my fishing, please help to protect it
Maybe a still water only licence , as the owner can dictate when to close to let fish recover, that’s after paying for a fence to keep otters out !
Comment by Dave Charrington posted on
If we have to be subjected to a closed season then it should apply to ALL including paddle boarders , wild swimmers, canoeists, dog walkers etc who disturb the spawning fish as much if not more than the anglers ! The EA should concentrate more on managing how much sewage enters our waterways plus how much damage farmers are doing with fertilisers, silage, pesticides etc our rivers are in a bad way it’s a wonder any fish spawns or even survives what is going on
Comment by Martin posted on
Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. Only a few weeks ago during the closed season iwas walking my dog along my local stretch of the river nene (NEN). There was the usual narrow boats up and down the river along with a few paddle boarders and one of them ended up in the water. They were having a great time and it was very funny watching tge lady trying to get back on her paddle board. She ended up clambrring through the rushes in the margins in order to get back aboard her vessel. This got me thinking.... wait a minute! I'm not allowed to fish this stretch due to the national closed season so why are boats and the like allowed to use it. The noise and damage that may had been made was far more damaging to any fish spawning than I would have done sitting alone by the river having a couple of hours angling. I've been an angler for 40yrs now and I don't want to appear getting grumpy as I get older but it really is one rule for one and one rule for another.
Comment by Raisa Vandewalle posted on
Would it be possible to desalt the seawater and water the fields and forests to protect them from drought.
It could also help struggling water companies
Saw a program, Israel has a way to do it. Oceans are all around us find a way to get clean drinking water for all.