Coarse angling close season is necessary - but should it be shorter

Petworth & Bognor AC member Steve Penticost with a winning bag
Petworth & Bognor AC member Steve Penticost with a winning bag

Most sports have a close season and it’s often weather-related. Who, for example, would want to play cricket in the winter?

The coarse fishing season on rivers throughout the country closed last week (March 15) and reopens on June 15 while fly-fishing closes from November 1 to April 3.

These legalised seasons have been in place for many years and protect the spawning cycle of fish, mainly in rivers. However there’s pressure from a number of anglers that support a shorter close season moving more towards the end of April.

The Environment Agency recently sent a questionnaire to anglers to establish our views on this and I’ll be interested to learn the results.

Should a shorter close season become law, there’s a number of factors that can arise. For instance how would the landowners and farmers react to anglers enjoying another month’s fishing? Would they expect an increase in rent?

For dairy farmers, having anglers in fields alongside calves who are highly protected by their mothers could cause difficulties.

When river fishing was in its heyday, especially during the 50s and 60s and before WW2, when trainloads of anglers from London and other cities made their way to our rivers, some popular areas were over-fished and the close season gave the fish time to recover and get on with generating offspring.

But angling has fallen well short of its earlier popularity and there’s not the same pressure; however I still believe and hope common-sense will prevail and we maintain a close season.

Fishing during winter can be daunting but still successful if you choose the right venue, the right day and the right bait – something I have failed to do in these last few weeks – but it didn’t always end up as a blank day.

I’ve noticed that trotting a float downstream didn’t catch as many dace and small roach as during warmer months, but I wasn’t alone in hooking better-quality chub and larger roach.

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The wait can be frustrating but when you do find the fish, they tend to be good’uns. With a strong current and higher water levels the fish seek calmer waters, deeper pools and bankside cover, especially sunken tree trunks.

If you locate a good holding area, use heavier groundbait which won’t get so quickly swept downstream – even a stone or heavy pebble to get the groundbait to stay in place. You can be certain the fish will welcome this food, but can still be easily spooked by anything heavy-handed.

The Petworth and Bognor club’s match anglers are hardy souls during these cold days and their competitive nature never fails to amaze me.

When you are tested against another angler it brings out your best, and for any youngster wishing to learn how to fish and become a match angler, you will learn quickly and be welcomed, shown the ropes and become enthusiastic. Details are at www.sussexangling.co.uk

As the river season ends numerous ponds remain open for coarse fishing so you can still go fishing and watch the countryside welcome spring.

Roger Poole, chairman

Petworth & Bognor AC