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Closed season facing tough scrutiny.

Byline: By Jeff Bell

Angling could be about to witness a dramatic change of heart regarding the closed season following the announcement that the Environment Agency is to launch an official study into all year round fishing.

With pressure increasing within the sport the Government agency has declared it will investigate again the possibility of abolishing the March 15 to June 16 statutory break on rivers and drains.

It appeared that the decade old issue had finally been laid to rest last year when the EA produced research suggesting that the majority of anglers wanted the byelaw to stay in place.

Now, however, with support for a national ballot on the question growing from such influential bodies as the National Federation of Anglers the agency has admitted there is scope for further investigation.

EA fisheries advisor Garry Jones is currently working on material to support a study into the impacts all-the-year-round river fishing may have.

"The Agency intends to carry out work to determine what research might be done and what it could achieve that would be relevant to the future of the statutory close season on rivers," said Jones

"Unlike the situation that existed before the abolition of the close season on canals and stillwaters, there is no existing information on the possible impact of the loss of the closed season on rivers. That means we have to investigate the matter thoroughly.

"Market research was undertaken in January 2003 to gauge the attitudes of licence holders to the closed season on rivers. Although the majority were in support of retention of the closed season, there was significant support for ending it. The decision has to be a correct one on an issue as big as this and the various options will be included in our research programme," Mr Jones concluded.

Britain's coarse angling governing body, the NFA is preparing to add further pressure as it pushes for a vote by all anglers.

Nicholas Naum, the NFA's north west representative criticised the EA's current approach to the issue and said there was no excuse for avoiding an open vote on the closed season.

"The EA has been running around this issue for years and you get the feeling it doesn't want the closed season abolished. Surely all rod licence holders should be asked officially what they think so we can finally lay this to rest," he commented.

An independent ballot. organised by a national angling publication on the emotive closed season issue. showed overwhelmingly that Britain's anglers want to fish rivers all-year-round.

In an emphatic show of support for the abolition of the ancient by-law introduced in 1878, 71% were in favour of scrapping it for good. The result echoed the ballot held by the same publication in 2002 when 76% of readers were in favour of such a move.

Further support for a ballot of all licence holders was given by NFA vice-president Rodney Coldron who commented: "Approaching more than a million people at once will give a fantastic insight into the situation."

The Environment Agency received almost pounds 1/2m in fines and costs from successful rod licence evasion prosecutions 1/2in its 2003/04 financial year with 3,489 anglers being caught in the process.

There was a total of pounds 213,633 in fines which were topped up with costs of pounds 203,730. The year ended with 320 anglers caught in March, 40 more than the previous month.

EA head of fisheries, Dafydd Evans, said: "It's simply not worth fishing without a licence." Full adult licences cost pounds 23 with senior citizens paying half the rate and juniors pounds 5.

* Twenty-eight-year-old Natalie Hull, from Birmingham, currently working in Spain as a guide for Ebro Catfishing Adventures had a unique experience recently during a session on the Ebro.

Fishing alone during a half-day off she hooked a large catfish which took 15 minutes to bring into the shallows whereupon she jumped into the river to get the fish into a sling and drag it up the bank. When assistance arrived it took the scales around to 146lb, a weight 20lb heavier than the captor!

It is thought to be possibly the biggest ever specimen taken by a woman angler in the country.

* Oak Scar reservoir at Longwood is fishing well at the moment with nice nets of roach and bream being taken on a regular basis. Pike and some good perch on lobworms and small live baits, are also offering good sport.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:746
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