New rules safeguard right to take fish away

Roy WebsterA long and vigorous battle to protect long-held rights of the individual to take home rod and line caught coarse fish for the table has been won against a vociferous campaign by groups and sections of the angling media demanding zero tolerance.Roy Webster

A long and vigorous battle to protect long-held rights of the individual to take home rod and line caught coarse fish for the table has been won against a vociferous campaign by groups and sections of the angling media demanding zero tolerance.

The Environment Agency has announced new bylaws governing the removal of coarse fish under the Water Resources Act 1991, confirming that due respect has been paid to anglers to take away fish for the table and retain them for use as live or dead bait.

The legislators have ruled that on rivers an angler may retain one pike per day up to 65cm in length (approximately 5lb), two grayling per day between 30 and 38cm in length and unlimited numbers of alien zander, exotic species such as koi carp and mini-fish like bleak and gudgeon.

Up to 15 fish per day not exceeding 20cm in length (eight inches) may be taken and include silver bream, common bream, barbel, crucian carp, common carp, chub, dace, roach, rudd, tench, pike, smelt, grayling, perch and hybrids.

Whilst the majority of these smaller fish may be required for live or dead predator bait, the bylaws do not specify usage. And since perch are the tastiest of coarse fish a dozen or more of these plump eight-inch stripeys will inevitably become lawful contents of the frying pan.

Explaining the decisions, the EA said there was a need to allow for species that are traditionally taken for eating (pike and grayling) while needing to protect the more valuable large and mature specimens.

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It was also recognised that taking of small fish for bait was an important part of predator fishing, and since there was ne evidence this was damaging fish stock it should be allowed to continue.

It was also emphasised that all these limits were subject to the agreement of the fishery owner or occupier who could actually set tighter restrictions beyond the jurisdiction of the authorities.

The application of the bylaws on stillwaters will allow anglers to remove fish only by written consent of the owner or occupier.

Venues classified as stillwaters are the Norfolk Broads, boatyard lagoons, boat dykes, lakes, pits, ponds and canals.

And since fish in stillwaters usually belong to the owner or occupier they will be free to apply tighter and stricter rules under the Theft Act without Environment Agency involvement.

The bylaws confirm removal of endangered eels by rod and line will be prohibited and they will be ineligible for weighing in at competitions.

Since only 33 anglers from the Broads area participated in the consultation process leading up to the Royal Ascent of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill that triggered these bylaw changes it is unlikely there will be much more than a murmur of protest against this very even-handed revision of the bye laws that secures something for everyone.

Especially happy will be those anglers who visit the Fens for the sole purpose of restocking their freezers with succulent zander fillets.

Pike anglers on the Broads will be obliged to seek written permission to catch livebait from the Broads, boatyards and boat dykes. And where the owner of any stillwater cannot be identified no fish of any species may be removed for what ever reason.

The riparian of a trout stream can apply for special dispensation to remove unwanted coarse fish including pike of all sizes from their fisheries. It is understood this relief to cull unwanted predator fish may also be granted where roach and dace are considered threatened and below strength.

Apart from the predator anglers who have welcomed the 15-fish rule the other benefactors are the poor and needy such as senior citizens who for years have supplemented their cash-restricted diet with some of the coarse fish they catch.

One 76-year-old, applauding the new set of bye laws, commented: 'I have always eaten pike and perch. I do not cook a pike every day, perhaps one or two a month. And I like the idea of being able to fry up half a dozen plump perch.'

Meanwhile the chances of catching any fish for sport or the pot are steadily becoming remote under the relentless grip of the bitter Siberian weather.

Lakes, ponds, Broads and slow-moving rivers are frozen over and with overnight temperatures forecast to plunge further main tidal rivers may well become glacial by the weekend.

Match catches have varied between abysmal and nil with one exception on the River Wensum in Norwich where Lewis Murawski (Anglers World) won the Linda Thompson Memorial with a bream catch of 29lb 7oz.

On the River Waveney Cut Davis Roe won the Norfolk and Suffolk veterans Tuesday match with 30lb 13oz of small bream. Along north Norfolk beaches sport plunged with Clive Leggatt (Gorleston) winning the Holt open at Kelling with 2lb 4oz of flat fish.

The first round draw involving Norfolk and Suffolk clubs in the Super Cup 2010 is: Dersingham Blue v Fakenham, Diss Dace v Sudbury, Hunstanton v Dersingham Black and finally Martham v North Norfolk Misfits v Norwich Union. The first three rounds will be fished by midnight, March 7.