Angling: Fresh water fish getting a ‘raw deal’ from policy – Steve Fearnley

Barlby's Phil Austin who caught a bream and a hybrid amongst his recent top weight at Hunter's Lodge.
Barlby's Phil Austin who caught a bream and a hybrid amongst his recent top weight at Hunter's Lodge.
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It’s only a couple of months ago that the Environment Agency awarded a landmark contract to the Angling Trust in a bid to create a working partnership leading to thriving fisheries and angling throughout England.

Key priorities of the contract are to increase participation amongst existing and new anglers, tackle illegal angling, and manage a fund to improve angling facilities, with the highlight being encouraging the take-up on junior anglers and addressing the recent decline of this age group. The contract will run for up to four years and is currently worth £1million a year, though this could vary depending on licence sales.

Only weeks into this contract and the High Court has granted permission for the Angling Trust and Fish Legal to challenge DEFRA and the Environment Agency over their failure to protect our rivers from agricultural pollution. The focus of the court case is habitats known as Natura 2000 sites. These include places like Poole Harbour, the Avon, Wye and River Eden. Though I applaud these actions, I always feel let down when reading the cause is to protect the same old Atlantic salmon, bitterns or bullheads from a leafy glade, babbling brook or misty marsh.

Why can’t the same results be achieved by investigating claims that run-off from mulch spreading is killing weed for miles downstream of Otley on the Wharfe, resulting in a lack of habitat for almost everything that swims. Don’t Yorkshire dace or chub deserve the same protection as salmon, and are the Angling Trust biting the £4million hand that feeds them?

The River Ouse though running at a good level was the colour of tea for the big Leeds & District Annual match. The colour is always a put-off for the resident roach and dace, which made sure the winner would lift the trophy with only a couple of big fish. Tim Harrison made no mistake after drawing in the fancied 250s. Fishing mid-river with a caster feeder and worm on the hook, Harrison made sure of the win with three good bream for 16-12.

Further downstream, Pontefract’s Pete Turner also had three bream though much smaller from unfancied peg 279 to take second with a weight of 10-12. Leeds’ Bill Collier is having a great season this year with some unexpected catches, this week being beaten into third place by just one ounce with a double-figure barbel and a bootlace eel for 10-11.

Middle Linton on the Ouse has never been a barbel stronghold yet Collier has had two big fish on matches over the past three weeks. Double-figure barbel caught through the day under match conditions would raise an eyebrow or two anywhere in the country; the relevance of these Yorkshire fish should not be underestimated.

Wednesday’s midweek open on the same venue saw a much-different result as the conditions changed.

With the colour dropping out, small fish made an appearance and Barnsley’s Dennis White claimed top spot with 6-15 of bread punch caught roach with silver fish making up the rest of the leading catches.

Bank Holiday Monday’s match on the Aire around Beal also was a change from past weeks.

Barnsley’s Keith Hobson drew a peg below the weir that last week produced 15lb of eel, yet won the match with the same weight of 15lb but with no eels.

His catch consisted of roach to 10oz and the well-known resident pet tench of 4lb.