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Close season? It's a total farce

Close season - is it out of date?
Close season - is it out of date? (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

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Close season is it out of date?

At midnight on March 14 – if you live in England and Wales – you have to pack away your river coarse fishing gear until June 16.

Travel across the border into Scotland or make the short journey over the Irish Sea and you can keep on fishing right through the year for your favourite species. Does that make sense? Of course it doesn’t!

Likewise, cross to mainland Europe and you can also keep on fishing for species other than trout. Now all of this is because coarse fish are meant to spawn between March 15 and June 15.

Note I said ‘meant to’! We all know that they don’t! In fact most coarse species spawn at different times of the year and also depending on prevailing weather conditions.

Of course no one told the fish that they only have this three-month period to enjoy themselves with naughties. No, it was a human, a non-angler at that, who devised these rules almost 200 years ago, way back when we didn’t have fisheries scientists and experts who know all about spawning, breeding etc.

Now to confuse matters more you can keep on fishing in stillwaters and also certain canals. Obviously coarse fish that live in these places must breed at different times!! It’s a total farce!

A fine net of river perch for Steve Collett, the ace Angler’s Mail columnist. Come March 15 he can still catch perch… so long as he’s on a canal or lake!

A fine net of river perch for Steve Collett, the ace Angler’s Mail columnist. Come March 15 he can still catch perch… so long as he’s on a canal or lake! (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

And it is about time that someone who knows what they are talking about sat down and said definitively why there should or should not be a Close Season for coarse fishing.

I’m all in favour of giving waters a rest. Some clubs already do this themselves, closing waters on a rotation basis to give the fishing a break and the banks time to grow back.

In Europe – and no the EU doesn’t affect our fishing seasons – in various countries they have no close-down. Some do impose breaks at different times to cover different species, to try and tie in with the individual breeding seasons.

The new 2016/17 EA rod licence has a classic river fish, chub, on the front – but even though your rod licence is valid, you cannot catch them from English and Welsh rivers under EA rules between March 15 and June 15 inclusive. Go to certain Scottish rivers and you can keep catching them!

The new 2016/17 EA rod licence has a classic river fish, chub, on the front – but even though your rod licence is valid, you cannot catch them from English and Welsh rivers under EA rules between March 15 and June 15 inclusive. Go to certain Scottish rivers and you can keep catching them! (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

I’d guess many of us have caught a fish that is carrying spawn – and not during the official Close Season. Handle with care, return gently and there is no danger.

In fact when fish really are getting ready to spawn and drop eggs they don’t feed. They go mental – I’ve seen it. They thrash about so much unaware of what is happening you can pick them out of the water! That time – and just before – is when there should be a Close Season, if any is needed.

Clubs and commercial fisheries want to protect their stocks. Let them decide when they want to open and close their waters. On public, free fishing venues the Environment Agency might find it difficult to chop and change Close Seasons – and that is where a staggered or no shut-down policy might have to be considered.

And the other things to bear in mind are: