No Fishing…?

I came across a sign the other day whilst scouting new waters, it said members only, no fishing. Fair enough, I thought, go somewhere else.

But something about the sign was gnawing away at me until the penny dropped. It was the name of the club on the sign. That club went out of business ten years ago. Clearly it was no longer relevant and this got me to wondering, how many more out-of-date, non-relevant signs are there like this scattered around fisheries?

Think about the waters near you. How many of the old clubs and associations gave up stretches on natural venues when commercials became widespread, cormorants darkened our skies, otters flourished and we witnessed the consequent falling membership numbers?

I bet there have been plenty. In my local area the big Sheffield Associations folded, so did Stainforth and District. Doncaster gave up the Trent, the Idle and much of the Torne. This was just the tip of an iceberg.

Do you think anyone went and collected in all the signs?

Without this sounding like I’m promoting a poachers charter, 99% of the fishing signs I see are worthless and here’s why. The majority of clubs lease their waters for fixed periods – they don’t own them. But the signs they erect most certainly give the appearance of permanence when there is absolutely no guarantee, nor any way of knowing for sure if they are still relevant.

Two hundred years ago, when America was in its infancy, the first settlers would ‘claim’ land by driving in stakes, putting up a sign and then registering the claim later. Imagine if you could do that in fishing? Because that’s exactly what an outdated sign is doing. It acts as a deterrent and nothing more. Whatever threat of prosecution it carries has no status in law. It is defunct. Extinct. History.

But how is anyone to know they are relevant or not?

Is it not time all fisheries were registered with a governing body, say the Angling Trust? Why can we not have a central register of fisheries?

Okay, fisheries would have to pay a small fee, publish the termination date of the lease and then make the details available to all (say) Trust members via the members-only access area of the web site.

There would be no more need for FB posts asking where folk can fish on the Trent, or the Severn,  the Wye or anywhere else. Providing they were Trust members they could simply look it up. 

And perhaps it could be made incumbent on clubs joining the scheme to adopt a universal signage protocol. Indeed using the power of low cost buying efficiency the Trust could actually provide the necessary signage as part of the registration fee, to include dates up to which the sign is still valid.

A sign that basically says ‘eff orf’ without any supplementary details is worse than useless. It’s meaningless. Who is to say that sign is still effective?

What then if all signs displayed a valid until date (say, Private Fishing until 15th June, 2025, for example) and also a contact telephone number. It would then be incumbent upon clubs to renew signs as leases are renewed, via the Trust, and keep them up to date.

Where clubs own a fishery outright a permanent sign stating this could be erected instead.

It would be a win-win in my book. No excuse then for poaching and it also takes out all those misleading signs at a stroke.

It’s all too simple, eh?

‘Reminds me of a similar conversation I had recently when someone was rightly complaining about recreational boaters mooring and fishing with no thought to purchasing a day ticket.

I asked if the controlling club, knowing that boaters are legally allowed to moor against the bank, have information signs facing the water that those same boaters can see? Or are they at the entrances to and perimeters of the fishery, near car parks, facing away from the pegs? And if someone wanted to pay, is there a facility to do this by phone because a boater can hardly walk to a tackle shop in the next town?

Sometimes we still run our angling clubs like it’s the 1950s and perhaps need to revise our thinking. On the one hand we bemoan falling participation numbers whilst on the other seem to be doing our utmost to make angling a closed shop.

Sadly the idea of poaching (or ‘guesting’) is regarded as fair game and part of the fun by many, which is fine if we all agree it’s okay and not a big deal, but a lot of folk, especially when there are syndicates involved, tend to be somewhat less relaxed, more protective and see the crime as being on a par with stealing the crown jewels.

But if you are in the flog ’em camp, thrash poachers within an inch of their lives and then drag them down the nick and throw away the key, then surely it is incumbent upon you to make your claim to the fishing rights absolutely clear to all – and that should include a specified ‘until’ date.

If you are merely renting a water then it is by nature a temporary arrangement. 

Food for thought? Would this help matters or be more trouble than its worth? I guess you should answer that after first declaring whether you are a fishery controller or just an angler looking for somewhere to fish.

Do feel free to discuss…

5 thoughts on “No Fishing…?

  1. Such a grey area. I know you were fishing on the Thames and a boat said ‘ we are mooring there’. They were not paying for their mooring but you had a ticket. As a boater ( and a fisherman ) I would have given the fisherman first come first served rights but some don’t. In this day and age, the simple technology of paying for something, even a ticket, is not beyond a small cub. I got back today from a trip to the Hampshire Avon, did fall foul of one bailiff. Tickets available from the kiosk – it was closed. Apparently a garage sold them. I am from Mid Wales so not a local. When asked where the garage was was told ‘not my problem’. I hadn’t even started fishing so had to go and ask around where to find this garage. How much easier if it had been online.

  2. Hi Bob.
    Hope your well and always look forward to a new blog.
    To put contact details, a phone number email address and relevant dates on signs to natural waters where you may not see a bailiff from one year to the next makes common sense. This stops any misunderstanding as to free fishing and a point of contact for new members. But on naturals in my experience this is patchy.
    Although I don’t fish them myself, this appears on the whole not to be an issue on farmers’ aquariums, commonly known as commercials. Who have good signage, well laid out informed web sites relating to location rules and cost because their commercial enterprises? Not the captive audience, for the year anyway, of a member’s club where your friends have been for many years? Possibly outweighing the decision to leave a poorly run club?
    You touched on this and your right, a lot of clubs are run like there back in the 1950’s. With poor web sites relating to maps of where you can find access too and fish their rivers, that even Bear Grylls a former SAS serviceman would find hard to follow. The rules page for new members joining a new club if you can find it, never makes it clear whether you can night fish. If you do contact the club by phone someone on the other end sounds like your asking the inland revenue for a financial favour with a tone in the voice, that you should have known that. No! that’s why I called you to find out because your web site is so S**t.
    Join a club where you can night fish and most appear to have hurdles for doing this with web sites that have not been updated since God was a child to contact Bill, Bob or Bert, if they answer their phone or are still alive, to book five days in advance with your night permit that you paid for on top of your initial membership to night fish. With modern 21st century lives not being retired and living a balanced life not knowing till the last minute if you can go fishing for a few hours into the night, booking in advance is a frustrating barrier. It’s a member’s club, vet members on joining, tell them the club’s expectations of them. Why it cost extra to fish at night than in the day and a joining fee for new members is beyond me, or have admin fees gone through the roof since I last looked. Just be more transparent in overall membership costs shared equally through the membership.
    I am mindful that Clubs are run by committee with committee members doing what they do free of charge on a shoe string budget for a declining audience with rules in leases that tie their hands.
    But it’s never been so important that the right forward-thinking able people run your club, finance marketing IT. So, if you do go to your AGM and are asked, “any questions from the floor?”
    Think through your question, base it on as much fact as you can find, not just your opinion. You might have to pay more for your membership at some point which I think offers for “time cost leisure” great value for money. It may be the only way to save your club in the future.
    My club which is predominantly river with one small still water has full membership it’s well run very little in the way of rules and friendly, I’m told the face book page also bears this out. Yes, it’s full and the club admits it’s because of barbel anglers but equally it’s the people that run it.
    Tight lines

  3. This article appears to suggest that old signs indicating ‘no fishing except for members’ of defunct clubs gives anglers the right to fish. The angling community would be wise to be aware that wherever you fish in the U.K. someone owns the sporting rights. Even in your own freehold back garden pond, you may well not have the right to fish as the rights fall under manorial rights often not included in normal freeholds. Fishing without permission of the rights holder falls under acts of theft – not of the fish as is often believed, but of the right to charge for the permission to fish. Think of someone popping onto a golf course to hit a few balls around without paying the green fees. This is actually not a task for the bailiffs but a rather more straightforward one for the police – a quick 999 phone call from the rights holder to the police will demand a response….and they do respond with flashy blues as the situation is usually a crime in progress. If an annoyed angler starts getting aggressive, the potential charges can quickly escalate. Hypothetically, trying to leave the scene without payment and using your car (a lethal weapon) may be construed as armed robbery.

    The situation is not grey at all. It is conveniently grey to suit the angler’s desire to fish. No responsible angler would dare to fish without a fishing license, but they should also be aware of the need to always seek the permission of the rights holder. The presence of defunct signs or no signs at all is not an excuse.

    • Martin is 100% correct – Fishing without permission falls under the Theft Act 1968, and is very much a criminal, offence (Theft of Fishing Rights: code 116/11). If you don’t have permission then you are not entitled to fish – so it doesn’t matter if a sign is out of date or not – you still have to seek permission.

  4. I have a stretch of the loddon near me that he claims over phone & signs but if you speak to council they say he gave it up years ago. To top it off only had a year!!

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