John Bailey about to call it a day after fishing during the recent cold snap.

John Bailey: Angling Trust is a force for good

John Bailey
Thursday, January 24, 2013
2.59 PM

First of all, can I apologize for my non-appearance at the postponed Carp Show the Saturday just gone and, of course, for the delayed Mr Crabtree Launch Party that evening? This weather is relentless. Please, though, don’t forget to tune in to Quest (channel 38 on Freeview and 154 on Sky) at nine o’clock tomorrow night, Thursday, for the first part of the Crabtree series.

On to serious matters. I would like to comment on Roy Webster’s comment about the Angling Trust in his article, Fish feeling the draught – Wednesday, January 16. Roy is a controversial character and, frequently in the past, I’ve decided to lie low rather than be smoked out. This time, however, I have no choice in the matter because I am a so-called Angling ambassador for the Angling Trust.

This is a position I feel very honoured and privileged to uphold but it does mean I have to defend the Trust wherever I think necessary.

Roy’s grouch is that the Angling Trust has questioned the BBC’s documentary on otters as highlighted by the Springwatch programme. I read the article out to Martin Salter, the campaign organiser for the Angling Trust and his reply I deemed too strong for the pages of the Eastern Daily Press. However, I’m going to put Martin’s points alongside mine in an effort to be reasoned and to put the record straight.

Firstly, the Angling Trust responds to its membership. It received a tidal wave of protest from anglers about the Springwatch otter programme though this was not something kicked off by the Trust itself. I watched the programme and, like countless other anglers, felt it was hugely one-sided.

Roy cannot deny that the wave of reintroduced otters some years back created havoc, especially here in East Anglia.

Otters are still a problem to fisheries, however, fortunately, as I’ve said before, I believe their numbers are reaching a reasonable sort of balance now providing there are no more introductions in the future. It’s not enough to talk about otter fencing alone. How can we fence the River Bure, the Wensum, the Yare or Hickling Broad? Nor do all of us want to sit behind bars when we go out fishing. There are still a lot of us who want to fish in the wild for the wild.

I have to say that I have personal knowledge of a bias against angling at the BBC. Over the years, there have been several commissioning editors who dislike angling intensely and would never agree to programmes about it.

A present day presenter of wildlife on the BBC I know is virulently anti-angling because I’ve met him on several occasions and listened to his ridiculous attacks on our sport. All this I believe is outrageous. Angling is a legal sport and the BBC’s licence fees are, in part, paid for by tens of thousands of anglers. We have, therefore, every right to see angling properly portrayed and our fish properly represented.

Regarding fish-eating predators – no anglers have issues with kingfishers, grebes and herons. Cormorants are a different subject. Roy says there are 5,000 pairs of inland cormorants, but I believe those figures are woefully low.

The Angling Trust, again prompted by thousands of its members, is pressing government for control on cormorant numbers. Cormorants attack and mortally wound the big fish that they cannot eat and they decimate our river silver fish stocks. At this time of the year, in weather we are presently experiencing, there is carnage being carried out. If Roy doesn’t believe this, I say to him, get in your car and I’ll show you.

Roy talks about the “massive success of our river fish overcoming pollution and disease thanks to the strenuous effort to improve the water quality of the natural habitat”.

Well, when we look at pollution, one of the most successful pollution-fighting bodies for over half a century has been the former Anglers’ Conservation Association, now Fish Legal under the umbrella of the Angling Trust.

If we look at the improvement in water quality, let’s look at the Angling Trust’s Our River campaign. The Angling Trust liaises with the WWF, the RSPB and the Association of River Trusts as well as the Environment Agency in this excellent initiative.

The Angling Trust also puts pressure on government to implement the measures proposed in the recent Blueprint For Water. The Angling Trust, also, makes constant efforts to achieve the good ecological status as defined by the Water Framework that is so central to the future of our rivers.

As for “the damage caused by overcrowded keep nets, deep-hooked fish on trebles and the annual toll of silver fish as bait” – keep nets and live baiting are legal, like them or not. I’m not sure what underlining these practices to our most fierce critics would achieve in this instance.

Roy talks about, “the sensible administrators in our sport”. Yes, I agree.

Thousands of people work hard to make our sport better in every way. I know hundreds of them myself and the majority work for or with the Angling Trust in complete harmony for the good of us all. But go to the Angling Trust website for yourself and just see exactly why you should join. Part with your £20, please, if you possibly can.

I believe that the Angling Trust is our best chance to promote and protect angling that we’ve ever had in my lifetime.