Broads businesses boosted by fresh water fishing season to the tune of £100m
- Credit: Herbert Woods
There are few fishing destinations that rival the Broads for its scenic beauty, miles of lock-free waterways, rich heritage and diversity of fish species.
As the new fresh water fishing season opened on Friday, experts and anglers said it was no surprise that angling contributed an estimated £100m to East Anglia's tourism industry each year.
The sport's importance to the economy was highlighted in a 2015 Environment Agency report which estimated that 'anglers contributed between £91m and £102m direct expenditure to the local economy through tourism activity'. The agency said the Broads was 'arguably the best known and probably the most important single natural freshwater fishery resource in the UK'.
Kelvin Allen, the chairman of the East of England Freshwater Forum, said the value of angling should not be underestimated.
'A Broads Authority survey in 2015 found that about 18pc of the 8m people who visit the Broads every year take part in angling. It's not only important to the region, but to the UK.'
Andy Hindes, a principal scientist for Fishtrack, said there were several reasons why the Broads was such a popular destination with anglers.
'From an ecological perspective there's a great diversity of fish and all the main coarse fishing species including roach, bream, rud, pike, tench and perch are found in good numbers. There have also been some record catches over the years and this built up a reputation for the area drawing people from around the country.
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'The Broads is also very unique in that it's a medieval industrial landscape that has been naturalised to a certain extent.'
He said the waters were rich in food and nutrients and there were several areas that were ideal nurseries for fish leading to 'good specimen sizes'.
With the fresh water fishing season running from June 16 to March 14 the following year, many Broads businesses rely on the season to boost turnover.
James Knight, MD of Waveney River Centre, said the start of the new season on Friday represented an important period for them. 'If it was up to me we would not have a closed season,' he said. 'Angling and anglers are a large part of our business and that goes for any Broads business.'
Paul Greasley, a director of Norfolk Broads Direct said the Broads was a good system for fishing and drew anglers from around the country. 'We definitely get a lot busier and most of our visitors are from outside the area,' he said.
Local fishing shops also spoke of an increase in business when the fresh water season opened.
Angling Direct manager in Norwich, Andy Flint, said the Broads was a famous fishing destination going back many years.
'We're generally busy year round because there's always fishing going on but we definitely notice a spike in business when the season opens,' he said.
'The rivers are some of the best in the country for bream, roach, perch and pike and we have people from all over coming to fish here.'
Broads boat hire and holiday company Richardson's said it had a fleet of specialist fishing boats available at Wroxham.
'We know fishing is an important activity that attracts visitors from all over the country to the Broads,' said the company's chief executive Greg Munford.
'We see so many of our guests arriving with their fishing rods. It's our busiest time outside of the summer school holidays.'
Amanda Walker, marketing director at Herbert Woods Broads Holiday Adventures said: 'Our customers are very much looking forward to the start of the fishing season. Fishing and boating holidays go hand in hand and the Broads has such a wide variety of fish, making it perfect both for first timers and more experienced anglers.'
Nick Larkin of Lowestoft-based fishing business Nisa Feeders said the season always gave them a welcome boost in turnover. The company sponsors one of the country's biggest river fishing matches, which took place on the River Yare on Friday to mark the start of the new season.
Great Yarmouth and Norfolk Angling Association secretary Andy Wilson-Sutter said about half the 110 entrants in the New Season First Day Open match came from outside the region. 'As of last year this was the biggest river open match in the country and this single event contributes about £10,000 to the economy,' he said.
Nick Larkin has been fishing the Broads for the past 40 years. The 58-year-old from Lowestoft has been around the country with his fishing rod, but said there was little to compare with a Broads fishing experience. 'This has become the best region for river fishing in the last 20 years,' he said. 'We don't have a lot of industry and the water is of really good quality for fish.'
Having fished the region's five main rivers, Mr Larkin said his favourites were the River Yare and the Bure. 'Of course catching fish is important, and the quality of fishing is really good, but its the whole experience that makes this area so unique. You get to see all sorts of wildlife while sitting on the bank and everything stems from having good fish stocks in the river.'
He said all the main rivers offered good fishing spots, but new anglers should look for bends in the river where they would have the most chance of landing a decent catch.
You can fish most places in the Broads with an Environmental Agency fishing licence during the open season. Anglers should ensure that they have the necessary permission to fish on privately owned water, those controlled by angling clubs or on banks of tidal waters. The fishing season dates for coarse fishing are from June 16 through to March 14 the following year. The closed season applies to all the Broads and rivers from March 15 to June 16. A full fishing licence costs £30 for use of a maximum of two rods on each occasion. Concession licences are available to people aged over 65; or those who hold a Blue Badge for parking or receive Disability Living Allowance. You can apply for your Rod Licence at any Post Office, online or by yearly direct debit with the Environment Agency. Because the Norfolk Broads are a fragile wetlands environment, anglers are encouraged to take litter home with them and to never discard fishing tackle as it can easily harm wildlife.