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Hopefully number of those returning to angling continues to swell

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The Environment Agency released an interim report in February for rod licence sales for the year ending March 1, and it presented a positive picture for angling in England and Wales.

Nearly one million licences were sold, which was circa 100,000 more than the previous year, resulting in £20m being pumped back into angling from this income.

It is generally accepted that this spike in sales was a direct result of the effects of Covid-19 and the consequential lockdowns and furloughs. Golf experienced a similar increase in club memberships.

Mike Staveley at Barrow Lake. Picture: Chris Boughton
Mike Staveley at Barrow Lake. Picture: Chris Boughton

Angling and golf were permitted to re-commence during the first lockdown before other outdoor sports and attracted many new participants, especially those on furlough, who chose to use their free time to return to lakes, riverbanks and fairways; much needed by two pastimes that have experienced a considerable decline in participants over the past 20 years.

Bury St Edmunds Angling Association recorded a 44 per cent increase on membership sales for their year ending March 2021, compared to the previous year.

According to Steve Bull (treasurer) and David Plampin (secretary), the increase is a mix of past anglers returning to the sport after, in some cases, many years away from angling, and those who were new to angling.

Bury AA Match Secretary Keith Smith at Water Lane Reservoir. Picture: Chris Boughton
Bury AA Match Secretary Keith Smith at Water Lane Reservoir. Picture: Chris Boughton

I’ve spoken to some of the new members who returned to angling and rejoined the Bury club, including three carp anglers who have all been regulars at Middle Reservoir since last summer.

Also, a pike angler who has had a very successful time fishing at Redmere from November until the pike season ended on March 14. And on a recent visit to Barrow Lake I also had a conversation with four anglers who had not fished for several years, but none of whom were previously Bury AA members.

A couple of match anglers who I fished with 30 years ago have also rejoined, with one now converted to carp angling and the other hoping for the return of club matches to participate in.

Whilst my sample is small, all talked positively about their enjoyment since their return and planned to join again for the club’s new season (starts April 1).

Middle Reservoir. Picture: Chris Boughton
Middle Reservoir. Picture: Chris Boughton

The club’s match secretary, Keith Smith, is certainly planning for the government to allow matches to return in time for the club’s new membership year.

He has allocated dates and venues for the club’s traditional trophies, starting mid-April and listed in the 2021/22 details that accompany the new membership cards. There are also dates for the weekly seniors’ matches.

Full details of all the planned matches appear on the club’s website: www.burystedmundsangling.org

Anyone who is considering joining the club can also find details on the website of their waters, including locations and species. There is also a group page on Facebook ‘Bury Angling Association catch reports and chat (Suffolk)’ which is administered by current members and includes catch photos and reports.

So, let’s hope that the new members who joined last year have captured or recaptured the angling bug. There is a definite buzz among the anglers I have encountered, at Bury AA waters, in the past three months, despite Covid restrictions and the wet, cold weather. New members in any sport or pastime often generate new enthusiasm in existing members.

Bury used some of the extra income from the increased membership to stock tench into Water Lane Reservoir and Barrow Lake, plus they added two large carp to Middle Reservoir.

Bury AA have done extremely well to have survived the past 20 years. Most angling association’s membership levels have been in freefall (especially junior members) and many clubs have disappeared completely.

For those that cannot afford or just do not want to fish syndicated waters for large carp and catfish, and prefer the variety of multi venue waters at a reasonable cost, local club memberships offer a good option.

Clubs like Bury AA are run by a committee of elected volunteer members, enabling fees of just £75 a year, OAP and disabled £60 and Juniors £25.

In associations, all members get an opportunity to give their views and lobby for potential change at AGMs or EGMs, and successfully so if there is widespread support (eg the boilee ban at West Stow Lake that was famously overturned).

The expansion of commercial fisheries over the past 20 years has also provided another option, but of course, those are run for profit and angler influence is usually limited.

I was lucky in that I was chairman of Bury AA before the sport’s decline set in (countrywide) and I know I am biased but if angling can retain the Covid converts it will be good for all aspects of coarse fishing (syndicates, commercials, small clubs and associations). And for golf clubs too!

Both angling and golf currently have very effective lobbying representative organisations (Angling Trust and England Golf) which have both had an enormous impact and influence during the very difficult past 12 months. Maybe a subject for another article later.

A quick reminder that Tackle-Up in Bury St Edmunds is now providing a click and collect service until further notice on Fridays and Saturdays between 9am and 5pm.

Enquiries can be made, and orders can be placed, by calling 01284 755022 or emailing tackleupcollections@btinternet.com or via their Facebook page.

In line with the current lockdown travel restrictions, this service is intended for local customers only.

Bury St Edmunds Angling Association club memberships for the year commencing April 1, 2021 can be collected from: Tackle-Up on Friday, March 19 and 26 between 12pm and 3.30pm, Middle Reservoir on Saturday, March 27 between 8am and 2pm and Barrow Lake on Saturday, April 3 between 11am and 3pm. Bury AA’s treasurer Steve Bull can be contacted by calling 07831 494001.

Read more: All the latest Suffolk sport