Fishing Lines: Hooked on the close season

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DISASTROUS news from the National Rivers Authority this week: anglers will soon be allowed to go fishing even more. How can I possibly fit another three months into my schedule? Just look at this.

January: Best time for East Coast cod. Time to start pike-fishing expeditions to the Norfolk Broads. Village club trips to Oxford Canal or somewhere with lots of fish, even if they're small.

February: Off to Scotland in the forlorn hope of catching an early- season salmon. (I still haven't managed a first-day fish yet.) Best time for very big pike. Winter break to anywhere warmer and with more fish than Cambridgeshire.

March: Round off coarse-fishing season on the Kennet or Wye. Try for late-run cod. Attend trout-

fishing press days (good for stocking the freezer but not much else). Clean the car.

April: Very busy month. Trout season opens officially. Skate fishing off Bradwell. Take wife and children on holiday for few days (only free time). Week in Florida for saltwater species. More trout press trips. Fix all household jobs that have been put off since last year.

May: Exotic fishing trip. (It should have been sturgeon fishing in Russia this year, but there were organisational problems in Kazakhstan.) Off to Lough Corrib for mayfly hatch. Stop off for bream- fishing on Shannon. Tope and smoothhound trips. Paint house, hack down garden.

June: Annual pilgrimage to Southend Pier. (I was national sea-fishing champion here many years ago, though I only catch muddy flounders and green-boned garfish.) Try for early-season bass off Poole. Start of coarse-fishing season.

July: Waste a week on Scottish timeshare, drinking too much in evening and getting bitten to death by sundry flying insects. Lesson: never buy a fishing timeshare because it's cheap; buy when there are fish in the river. Tench and carp fishing. First trip with village kids. Take the family to Devon or Dover for mackerel fishing.

August: Sundry trips to river, lake and stream. Waste more time trying to catch huge Welsh mullet. Off to Devon where the mullet are easier to catch. Catch up on work. Trout fishing when work gets boring.

September: Barbel fishing on Avon, Kennet or Severn. They feed best when the leaves start to fall. Off to Scotland or Ireland for salmon and sea trout. 'Adventure' trip to US. (I've explored Maine, Seattle and the Adirondacks so far.)

October: Autumn roach on a flowing river (no longer a tautology, alas). Deep-sea trip off Plymouth for whatever swims and whatever the trawlers have left. Angling classes for local youngsters. Clean car.

November: Small-river chub- fishing. Main holiday: this year it's fishing off the Great Barrier Reef for shark, marlin and other deep-sea species. I'm learning to scuba dive so I can explore the reefs.

December: Try once more to catch an Ouse zander. Join Mad Mac for a few beach-fishing sorties at night. Enjoy the Kennet. Stay home if it's too cold. Plan next year's trip. Say hello to children.

See what I mean? Not a spare moment. And now the National Rivers Authority, in an effort to standardise a chaotic system, has proposed that any stillwater, from village pond to giant reservoir, will no longer have to adhere to a statutory close season. This only applies to coarse fish, while all running water in England and Wales will maintain the 15 March to 15 June break.

There's no season in Devon and Cornwall: you can fish many northern stillwaters right through the year while in the south you can angle if you pretend you're fishing for trout. I'm sure the tackle trade will be delighted. If there's no fishing allowed, you don't get many customers.

It could even be better for the fish, which are not too good at lobbying themselves. A close season was introduced to give them time to spawn. But after a cold winter and spring, sex is the last thing on their minds, so they don't spawn neatly between March and June. It can often be as late as August. The NRA's proposal is that fishery owners will be able to close waters at their discretion, though most will leave them open all year to maximise income.

The problem for me and thousands of others is that if temptation waggles its little finger, we'll be pulling our waders on. So I shall be writing to register my objections to the proposals. If it wasn't for the close season, my house would fall down.