Angling: One thing we must remember now we anglers are free from the lockdown

Mercifully angling has been excused from the lockdown and the nation’s anglers can return to the sport they love. Providing, of course, they stick to the rules and maintain social distancing.

A young Petworth and Bognor angler with a crucian carp

That’s quite easy: fishing is by and large a solitary pastime.

Clubs like ours, Petworth and Bognor AC, have had to put in place strict measures to ensure we comply with the rules and safeguard members, many of whom are over 65.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Of course one irony is that we are in the middle of the close season - the rivers are closed to anglers until June 16, except for fly fishing,

It’s been a very trying time, virtually unprecedented in living memory. We’d have to go back to the influenza epidemic of 1918-19 to find anything near the level of pain and suffering. However, we as a nation seem to get stronger in adversity.

As we see light at the end of the tunnel and people adjust to the ‘new normal’ I hope we take time to remember how we all pulled together and take the opportunity to reset our focus on what’s important.

We can start locally by supporting small businesses, many of which have struggled to survive.

For anglers this means using your local tackle shops, which should be open very soon. They need your help and support, so please make the effort to use them.

In fact I'm pleased to report that Arun Angling have reopened for telephone orders only. Others will hopefully follow soon.

Big online providers may sometimes be slightly cheaper, but none has the experience and local knowledge many of us rely on and which could save you money.

It’s hard to feel sorry for individual anglers stuck at home, but spare a thought for the many small businesses and individuals that service the sport.

Fishing was,’til recently, the most popular participation sport in the UK. Nearly a million licences are sold each year, an impressive number.

The licence raises around £23m a year (2017-18 figures) and most of this goes back into fish restocking and river maintenance.

The figure covers only freshwater angling so you can add a few hundred thousand more people who go sea fishing, requiring no licence.

In 2018 the government reported the angling industry was worth £1.4bn a year and employed 27,000 people.

Individual anglers alone spent around £500 a year each on equipment, club and syndicate fees and day tickets.

Although the big guys will probably survive, the greatest threat will be to those small independent shops and tackle makers that may fall outside government help schemes.

Some have seen their business and income dry up and don’t have the skills nor the resources to compete with large online stores. These small shops in turn support a host of smaller businesses, such as bait providers – someone has to produce all those maggots.

So use them or lose them... if you don’t, just imagine trying to get maggots through the post!

This lockdown has been unique – even during the Second World War you could still go fishing. Then, the enemy was human and visible.

One of our members, broadcaster and fishing writer Martin James, recalls, as a small boy, his first fishing trip with his uncle during the war.

Concentrating hard on his float he was disappointed when his uncle suggested they’d better get home quick.

A puzzled Martin asked why. “Because we’re about to be bombed, my boy!” was the reply. True enough, a large formation of German bombers was flying overhead aiming for the nearby docks.

Back in the present-day crisis, there have been positives. Skies are clear and locally, the Chichester Canal minus boat traffic is like an aquarium, clear and sparkling, and large shoals of fish have gathered ahead of the annual spawn. Aquatic life has boomed.

Steve Penticost

Petworth & Bognor AC