Let more enforcement be with us

Chris BishopWEST NORFOLK & THE FENS: It seemed almost ironic to get home from a day's fishing, where just a jack saved a blank, to find a letter reminding me it's time to renew my rod licences.Chris Bishop

It seemed almost ironic to get home from a day's fishing, where just a jack saved a blank, to find a letter reminding me it's time to renew my rod licences.

Current licences are valid until March 31, so I'll need one to be getting on with when the water warms up enough to make the local fun pond worth a dabble. And by the time I start pike fishing again, in 194 days' time - not that I'm counting or anything - I'll need another one because you have to cough up twice to use three or four rods.

That's �53 up the Swannee before I've even cast a bait. Licences have quietly gone up a quid from last season - which passed like a dozen or more before without even seeing an EA bailiff, let alone having my licence checked.

In the region you might loosely class as the Fens, the EA last year sold 66,500 rod licences - an increase of more than 7,000 year-on-year - reeling in �1.2m. I know the EA does a great job with pitiful resources in many respects. But where it has never done so well is in the front-line, the enforcement department.

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Gill nets and set lines are still being strung across our rivers and drains. Fish of all species are still being removed for the pot.

Ask any club in the Fens what they'd like to see and it's enforcement of the forthcoming national by-laws giving coarse fish protection in law for the first time.

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The EA made a big enough noise about the need to 'harmonise' the rules across the country. Many anglers fear the by-laws won't be worth the paper they're written on unless they're backed up with enforcement.

In a few weeks' time, there'll be enforcement of sorts. The first warm weekends will see many making their first foray to the commercial day ticket lakes, going fishing because the weather's nice.

Many of them will probably forget to buy a rod licence with their paste and pellets. The EA will send out its annual Press release warning of a crackdown, but not everyone will see it in time to renew their paperwork.

Across the country, hundreds will be collared in a single weekend. Job done for another year. Meanwhile thousands of us will fork out �27 or even �53 and wonder where the �1.2m goes.

t It might seem timely to review the river season, which ended on Sunday. But if you've been slogging away all winter, I don't need to tell you how bad it's been.

So instead of yet more doom and gloom, let's look ahead to late spring and early summer and a few stillwaters which might just restore your faith in fishing.

King's Lynn AA's Shepherd's Port complex up at Snettisham has excelled in recent seasons. Bear Lake is an in-your-face, no-nonsense doughnut of a carp pool. Shepherd's Lake offers first-class mixed fishing with bream, tench, silver fish and carp all featuring; while Stanton's (Queen's) Lake holds some serious slabs. Managed in partnership with the RSPB, the lakes now offer some of the best-value fishing in the area. There are no day tickets, you'll need a �40 Lynn AA book and an additional �10 permit to get on them.

Lynn AA expect them to open on Saturday, April 3.

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