Worrying times as angler numbers continue to fall
Angling appears to be lagging behind Association Football among the nation's most popular outdoor sports.
And it's a worrying trend that angling bosses fear may continue.
According to Fifa's The Big Count, a total of around four million men, women and children play football in England and Wales, watched by an estimated 25 million people on a regular basis.
On face value, these statistics suggest that the number of people interested in Isaac Walton's gentle art are on the wane, and this is supported by only 1.4 million rod licences issued for the financial year ending March 31, 2011 – a drop of 3 per cent from the previous 12 months.
Add to this a few thousand children under 12 who are exempt from the licence and all the sea anglers in the country who are allowed to fish without a licence, even the most generous estimate of the total falls far short of four million.
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John Lambert, who runs a successful tackle shop in Norwich and Beccles, catering for both fresh and sea water anglers, says that the range of goods relating to the sea side of his trade covers barely one third of his gross over-the-counter income.
'Beaches along the Norfolk and Suffolk coast in recent years have shown a marked decline of fishing rods, and that's entirely due to the plunging cod populations.
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In view of this I very much doubt whether there are more than half a million sea anglers in the whole country,' he declared.
It is not that the popularity of Association Football is so much on the up as angling is on the way down a slippery slope, where even allowing for non-licence holders, the grand total is unlikely to be much more than two million.
Quite simply, the younger generations are not consumed by an overwhelming enthusiasm to visit the river banks or local beaches and a glaring example this year has been the National Championships divisions one and two, where the combined entry was 111 teams of 10 compared with five divisions comprising 500 teams of 12.
• Meanwhile local match anglers, despite their average age of well over 50 years, are still enjoying their renewed love affair with the shapely, winding contours of Broads rivers and their alluring inhabitants – the natural bream and roach.
The latest round of the Saturday Nisa Feeder Series produced 23lb 5oz of roach for Mick Bartrum (Norwich Daiwa Angling Direct) from peg 27, followed by Tony Anderson (Suffolk AD) with 19lb 13oz from peg 92.
The Paul Day Memorial on the River Bure at St Benets was won by Wymondham veteran Albert Farrow with 17lb 14oz of roach and the sum raised for the East Anglian Air Ambulance was �740 thanks to local businessmen and kind contestants.
The Gerry Jones Memorial match at Cobbleacre, won by Jim Randell (Sensas) with 19lb 14oz, earned �165 for Macmillan nurses and that charity received another �270 from the Brian Stannard Memorial, Carleton Rode, won by Brian Bygraves (NDAA) with 21lb 7oz.
Performance of the week on the match lakes is beyond dispute. Mike Whittaker (Daiwa AD) established a new venue record at the Suffolk Water Park with a catch of 138lb of carp to win the VDE/Bait Tech Masters, where two of the nation's celebrity anglers, Stan Piecha and Graham Barry, were reduced to a spectator role.
Stuart Bracey (Dynamite) pocketed the top money at Barford, with 107lb 9oz, while at club level Keith Pope won the Freed Man with 113lb 12oz at Barford, Glen Mason was top Oddfellow at Railway with 107lb 6oz and Matt Wiles headed the Attleborough match group at Barford with 103lb 8oz.
• On the big fish scene, 14-year-old up-and-coming Long Stratton specimen hunter Tom Normanton bagged his third personal best carp of the year, the latest scale to add to his belt coming off a 25lb 1oz mirror carp from Swangey Lake, where he had two others of 21lb 4oz and 17lb 4oz.
Those fish take his year's tally to 17 specimens averaging 17lb.