Having now examined the government’s new Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations the Angling Trust is pleased to be able to offer some initial guidance and interpretation to anglers and fishery providers. Our formal guidelines will be published following further consultation with colleagues at Sport England and DCMS once Parliament has debated the regulations today and passed them into law.
Overall the Angling Trust is pleased that ministers have recognised the value of allowing angling and some other forms of outdoor recreation to continue through the forthcoming lockdown period. However, the new rules are more complicated than we had hoped and anglers should be fully aware of what we can and can’t do in the next 28 days.
How to Fish
The regulations are clear and you can only leave home to fish with members of your own household, your support bubble or with one other individual. The Rule of Six is now effectively the Rule of Two for most of us. The tightening of the rules on ‘gatherings’ means that match fishing or any other organised fishing event is prohibited by law during lockdown. However, competitive fishing will be able to resume once there is a return to the three tier system of restrictions.
Where to Fish
Angling is deemed a permissible form of ‘outdoor recreation’, and a lawful reason to leave home. It can take place, without time limits, within the provision allowing people “to visit a public outdoor space for the purposes of open air recreation”.
A ‘public outdoor space’ is defined as an ‘outdoor place to which the public have, or are permitted, access (whether on payment or otherwise).’ We believe this clearly includes riverbanks, towpaths, beaches and stillwaters that can either be accessed freely or on the payment of a day ticket or subscription levied by the owner or leased to a publicly available fishing association. The government clearly intends for people to be able to take their outdoor exercise and recreation in the form of angling and these regulations allow this to occur.
Fisheries are not on the published list of businesses that the government has ordered to close and there is no reason that they should do so providing that they operate in accordance with the rules
It does not permit club outings or organised amateur sporting activities of any sort. All indoor or social facilities in any way connected with a fishing venue must close or refer to the relevant Government guidance. Fishing tackle shops, whether onsite or not, can only operate a ‘click and collect’ service.
Travelling to fish
Whilst the government have chosen not to write their travel guidance into law we are urging anglers to respect the advice which states that it is permissible to travel in order to:
“to spend time or exercise outdoors – this should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)”
Put simply, you can travel to go fishing but long journeys should be avoided ‘wherever possible’. Sea anglers should focus on their local beaches and fishing marks and freshwater anglers should not be travelling hundreds of miles in search of fishing during lockdown. It is up to the individual to apply common sense and act within the spirit of the government’s guidance. You absolutely cannot leave home to fish if you have Coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.
How long to fish
There are no limits on the time that can be spent on outdoor recreation which means that anglers are able to continue fishing into and through the hours of darkness providing the other rules are observed.
Essential fishery management work, which clearly cannot be undertaken from home, can continue as can any necessary, socially distanced working parties fall within the provisions for ‘voluntary work’. Appropriate risk assessments must be in place and numbers should sensibly managed.
This is going to be an extremely difficult period for everybody and as anglers we must recognise that we are fortunate that our chosen form of recreation can continue even though there are restrictions on what we can do. The Angling Trust made the case for fishing based on the health and wellbeing benefits that angling offers coupled with the importance of reducing pressure on other open spaces by allowing us to continue to safely enjoy the social isolation and peace that fishing brings. It is incumbent on us all to continue to act responsibly and to fish safely, fish locally and respect the Rule of Two.