Angling has been a popular pastime on Britain's canals since their earliest days but the number of people taking part has declined over the past thirty years. During that period the number of angling clubs on the nation's canal network has fallen by a third with almost 150 being lost.
Now the Canal & River Trust, the largest single owner of coarse fishing rights in England & Wales, has launched a plan to reverse the trend and get the nation angling once more.
The ‘Be Inspired; Go Fishing' strategy sets out how the Trust intends to work more closely with angling clubs to change perceptions of angling, get more people having a go, and encourage communities to play a leading role in keeping the tradition alive on their local waterways.
In particular the strategy details how the Trust wants to get more young people involved; raise the profile of angling and the wider benefits it can bring to local communities; improve access and, where possible, facilities for anglers; and create community-run canal fisheries.
As an important first step the Trust has appointed a new national angling development manager, Becca Dent, who will be responsible for putting the plan into action.
Caroline Killeavy, head of community engagement for the Trust said; “It's incredibly sad to see how angling on our inland waterways has fallen into decline in recent years and, as the charity responsible for 2,000 miles of canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks, we're determined to reverse the trend and keep this important tradition alive. Angling isn't just an important part of our social history, it has a role to play today in contributing to healthier communities and better waterways.
“At the heart of our plans are the fantastic angling clubs that we have on our network. By working in partnership, combining our experience and local knowledge, we'll be able to reach out to new audiences; changing their perceptions, getting them angling and ensuring healthier, more enjoyable waterways for everyone”.
Fishing for life
The strategy follows on from the national ‘Fishing for Life' strategy produced by the Angling Trust and the Environment Agency. The Canal & River Trust controls fishing rights on 1,500 miles of canal and over 40 feeder reservoirs. In developing the strategy the Trust has consulted extensively with over 300 angling clubs, associations and development agencies as well as its own Angling Advisory Board.
Becca Dent, national angling development manager for the Trust said; “This is a genuine opportunity to approach things differently and revive an important part of the nation's history and hand it over to the next generation.
“For me personally that's incredibly exciting and I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and gathering the ideas and enthusiasm of angling clubs across the country. My priority is to get out and meet as many angling clubs and local communities as possible and begin the exciting job of getting more people out on their local canal or river.”
Becca has been an important part of the Trust's Enterprise team for the past three years, engaging local communities, securing external funding and raising the profile of waterways in Yorkshire.
Nation's favourite pastime
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: “I am delighted that the Canal & River Trust has developed an angling strategy to reflect the importance of fishing as one of the nation's favourite pastimes. There are many opportunities to provide high quality fishing on the waterway network, particularly close to where the majority of people live in towns and cities, and this strategy provides the framework to increase access and improve the quality of fishing.
“The Canal & River Trust's new emphasis on the importance of angling, and the recent appointment of an angling development manager, is very welcome. Our team is looking forward to working together to get more people fishing more often and to increase the benefits that angling offers to local communities and society as a whole. Angling is very important to millions of people throughout the country, as it gives them a chance to relax, unwind, connect with nature and to discover a mysterious and magical underwater world, often in the heart of major cities.”
A copy of the strategy can be found at www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/anglingstrategy