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 Clearly it was no longer relevant and this got me to wondering, how many more out-of-date, non-relevant signs are there like this scattered around fisheries?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 Because that’s exactly what an outdated sign is doing.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…