Angling must find ways of enticing people to tackle up
Angling must reach out to non-fishing families and emphasise the benefits and pleasures of connecting with nature if the sport is to survive in its present form.
That was the compelling message from Tony Gibbons, chairman of the influential Norwich and District AA at the annual get together between its officers and representatives of landowners, the tackle trade and EDP sport.
Responding to the deeply disappointing licence sale numbers, reported on these pages last week, Gibbons insisted there had to be a major change of policy and more collaboration with other users such as boaters, wildlife watchers and ramblers.
'We do not have a divine right to use our rivers and broads exclusively, but that is how a critical section of the general public view us.
'We have to encourage people to back our sport and adopt more positive ways and means of attracting family participation,' he declared.
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'If recruitment does not pick up over the next few years we in the Broads, especially the tourist industry and the tackle and bait trade will suffer much more than they are now.'
He concluded: 'A Broads Authority navigation member was discussing angling with me only last week.
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''What do you anglers do?' he wondered. 'We go fishing', I responded. 'But I have no idea what that involves, it seems to be a closed shop', was his parting shot and I realised he had a point – we have to connect with more people.'
Gibbons certainly has many reasons for his wake up call.
According to recent surveys angling is no longer rated among the leading sports in this country and it is impossible to verify repeated assertions that we have some three million fisher-folk when the current licences issued, even allowing that sea anglers are exempt, number less than 1,300,000.
John Wilson's Go Fishing programme, which attracted up to three million viewers during its early years on Anglia and Channel 4, led to an upsurge in newcomers to the sport. But once it departed from the terrestrial channels, the programme lost its viewers and today only two angling programmes are easy to locate – the globe-trotting Robson Green's Extreme Fishing on Channel 5 and ITV's River Monsters with Jeremy Wade. In essence, both are adventure and documentary rather than recruitment devices to tempt the people to tackle up.
Equally dispiriting is the Angling Trust's effort to recruit school children. At present the qualified angling coach is equivalent to the school bus that has run out of fuel, going nowhere. Offering free junior membership to the trust may help, but as Gibbons says, no one can force a child to go fishing against his or her will.And with some parents and teachers unhappy to hear the noises emerging from the Predator Action Group, tempting young anglers to replace those senior citizens that leave us, may pose serious difficulties for Gibbons and his like, showing initiative to reshape a more promising future for their sport.
• On the subject of recruitment, now is the time to enter the angling scene. On the match lakes, winning returns rocketed into treble figures, headed by Hinderclay winner Ray King (Barford) with 27 fish totaling 202lb 9oz. Simon Denmark (Norwich) was top at Mill farm with 170lb, Dave Jarvis (DAD) won at Colton with 133lb and J Heeps (Poplets) headed the card at Cross Dove with 124lb 2oz.
Top of the clubs was Mark Wiles, the Attleborough Match Group winner with 150lb 12oz at Abbey Waters.
On the carp waters, Julian Miller (Norwich) bagged a 30lb 12oz Taswood common and Dave Cummins (Ixworth) recorded his PB at 30lb 10oz. Swangey Lakes recorded more than a dozen carp at over 20lbs headed by a 31lb 13oz mirror for Danny Hall, of Gorleston.