In 1883 J P Wheeldon wrote ‘it’s very likely that a certain class of unreflecting people may imagine that the sole aim and ambition attendant upon the formation or weekly gathering together of the members of an angling club is centred in the consumption of a good deal of fourpenny ale, unlimited grogs and the strongest sort of tobacco’.
Wheeldon goes on to state: ‘Such an ungenerous reading is as far wide of the mark at the North Pole is to California’.
In his book ‘Angling clubs and preservation societies of London and the Provinces’ Wheeldon outlined the good work of angling clubs, associations and fish preservation societies up and down the land. Wheeldon was indeed spot on. More than 130 years after his words were written, one of the greatest strengths in angling continues to be its club structure and the work of its largely voluntary committee members. It is estimated there are somewhere around 2,500 to 3,000 freshwater angling clubs in the country from large associations to small social and match groups. Getting on for 10% of these clubs have contractual arrangements with the Canal & River Trust, which is perhaps not surprising as we're the largest single owner of freshwater fishing rights in the UK.
The terms and conditions of the contractual arrangements covering our fishing rights are set out in what is known as the standard angling agreement document. The agreement is technically a license rather than a full blown lease which, among other things, excludes angling clubs from having to pay local authority rates on their canal or reservoir fishing holdings. Every few years, taking into account advice from our National Angling Advisory Group, we review the terms and conditions. The current NAAG chairman and National Council member, David Kent, has played a significant role in helping us with the review. In the fisheries world, as with so much everything else in life, the only certainty is change. Some of these new changes are discussed below.
We now need our clubs to let us know of all their organised events, such as competitions. Previously, we only needed to be told about events with more than 50 participants. We will shortly have one central point to manage events nationally. email@example.com. The need to let us know about upcoming events is actually a benefit to customer clubs, rather than just another chore. Its primary purpose is to reduce the risk of clashes with third party events that may be proposed on the clubs rented fishery.
Clubs will need to complete our match fishing application form. Allied to this, third party event organisers will be asked to contact local fishing clubs at the planning stages of their events. They can get the details of clubs from the fishing pages of our website, so it's really important that your club contact details are both current and kept up to date. This is one important reason why we need club information to be available on our website. If we still feel that the consultation has not been adequate, we will undertake to contact the relevant customer clubs when we receive third party events applications. In future, if clubs ever come across events on the canal about which they have not been made aware, they can email us.
In the case of the small number of angling events where there will be more than 100 taking part, the host club or the organising body, such as the Angling Trust for national championships, will need to go through the full events application process. For more information about this process, please complete our events form.
We now need clubs to submit their match fishing results to us so we can publish these results in our weekly match results column, typically published on our website and Facebook page on a Monday. As a minimum, we need the top three anglers' names, team and weight of fish caught as well as name of canal and name of competition, e.g. second round of winter league. Photos of the winners will always come in handy, should you have them.
All results should be emailed to Steve Cope, ideally by 8.00pm on a Sunday evening.
Why do we need to bother, you may ask? Match results act as a long term dataset to help us assess fishery performance. Paul Breslin and I recently met with Natural England and they emphasised the importance of match result data collection as a source of fishery evidence. There is even a possibility that the close season on Canal SSSIs could be lifted in due course if we can provide data to support this action.
The introduction of the fisheries component of the Environmental Appraisal process, which should kick off during 2017, will highlight the need throughout the business to keep the customer club in the loop on all matters of relevance to the fishery. It is our ambition that clubs are always made aware when access to the fishing rights will be disrupted and when there are significant alterations to water level. Clubs will also be made aware of third party works on their club waters, assuming of course that we ourselves are aware of it. We'll also notify clubs of adoptions and volunteering work that will materially impact on them.
Clubs will need to hold insurance to the value of £5 million, an increase from the previous requirement of £2 million. While there are many providers of third party insurance in the marketplace, a large number of clubs do take up membership of the national governing body, Angling Trust, which currently provides the necessary insurance cover as part of it's membership package.
We have firmed up the requirement for clubs to have more thorough risk assessments. In order to help customer clubs, we have agreed to produce guidance to help clubs prepare their own risk assessment process. We will have this available during 2017.
Unlike on a river where there is an imaginary central line midway between the two banks, ownership of the fishing rights on canals stretches from waters’ edge to waters’ edge. Clubs that rent fishing rights on canals control the fishing from both banks unless there are agreements in place to the contrary, which there are on a very small number of our wide waterways. We have clarified this accordingly in the new version of the document. This will help clubs that encounter issues with people insisting they can fish from the offside without payment, which is a source of constant annoyance at some locations.
We wish to encourage clubs to sign their fisheries and have produced clearer guidance as to how clubs should go about this process. Having a system of permanent peg numbers is also of benefit for numerous reasons. This includes making it simpler to run matches, reduction in littering and limiting impacts on vegetation to defined angling peg locations. Both angling club signage and guidance as to permanent pegging are covered in much more detail in our Signs of the Times blog.
As the fish in the canal network are under our ownership of, it’s appropriate that we take responsibility for the management of the legal aspects of their possession. While the current position on all non-native fish species appears clear in law, i.e. they cannot currently be legally returned to the canal fishery, we have asked both Natural England and the Environment Agency to re-clarify this so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and anglers and club officials are not inadvertently breaking the law. Here is an example of a site permit. We will update you in the future with any new information.
Football was in the news for all the wrong reasons back in the autumn of 2016. It’s important that clubs do not put themselves inadvertently at risk through the lack of a safeguarding policy. The new agreement has been amended such that clubs will not undertake any coaching sessions or similar engagement activities with any child, young person or vulnerable adult or permit any person to do the same without ensuring that the appropriate safeguarding measures are in place, as would be practiced by qualified and licensed level two angling coaches.
In the past there have been a few club officials who wanted to pay less for their fishing rights, but have not been prepared to allow basic promotion of the facilities on offer. We didn’t think this was fair to the us and it does not do the sport of angling any favours either. For this reason, as well as to help with the third party events process, we will now need basic contact details for all clubs to be included on the fishing pages of our website. For our part, we will commit to maintaining and developing the angling pages of our website to enable this to happen.
Our fisheries team have been working closely with the Angling Trust fisheries management advisors in exploring options in this area. On request we will provide guidance on the management of avian predators. Where permission is granted by Natural England, we will work closely with clubs to ensure any licensed shooting activity is carried out safely.
As we grow our number of volunteer adoptions, it is imperative we fully communicate their presence and activity to existing customers. We now commit to do this. Angling clubs can also become part of the adoption process.
The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.See more blogs from this author