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Angling continues during lockdown in England & Wales

Fly fishers in England and Wales who like to fish for grayling, late-season rainbows, pike, coarse fish, or bass during the autumn breathed a sigh of relief as the new restriction measures for the latest 28-day lockdown in England were announced.

Unlike golf and tennis, which have been closed down in England, angling can continue. "Fish safely, locally and respect the ‘rule of two’ during lockdown guidance", says the Angling Trust, which states that the government "makes it clear that outdoor recreation at 'parks and gardens', and at 'beaches and in the countryside' will be deemed to be legitimate from November 5, until the lockdown eases on December 2.

The Trust says that "Angling is deemed a permissible form of ‘outdoor recreation’, and a lawful reason to leave home. It can take place, without time limits, within the provision allowing people “to visit a public outdoor space for the purposes of open air recreation.

"A ‘public outdoor space’ is defined as an ‘outdoor place to which the public have, or are permitted, access (whether on payment or otherwise)." The Trust believes, "this clearly includes riverbanks, tow-paths, beaches and stillwaters that can either be accessed freely or on the payment of a day ticket or subscription levied by the owner or leased to a publicly available fishing association. The government clearly intends for people to be able to take their outdoor exercise and recreation in the form of angling and these regulations allow this to occur".

Under travel guidance during the English lockdown, the government has stressed that short journeys should be permitted: “time or exercise outdoors – this should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)”. The Trust says, that whilst the government has chosen not to write their travel guidance into law "we are urging anglers to respect the advice".

It goes on to say, "you can travel to go fishing but long journeys should be avoided ‘wherever possible’. Sea anglers should focus on their local beaches and fishing marks and freshwater anglers should not be travelling hundreds of miles in search of fishing during lockdown. It is up to the individual to apply common sense and act within the spirit of the Government’s guidance. You absolutely cannot leave home to fish if you have Coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating".

In England, fisheries are not on the published list of businesses that the government has ordered to close and the Trust says that "there is no reason that they should do so providing that they operate in accordance with the rules". Fishing tackle shops, whether on site or not, can only operate a ‘click and collect’ service. The latest news release from Anglian Water stated: "We are continuing to review which activities can remain open in line with the government guidelines and will update on these once we have confirmation".

The government stresses that the rulings do not permit club outings or organised amateur sporting activities of any sort. All indoor or social facilities in any way connected with a fishing venue must close or refer to the relevant government guidance.

Summarising the conditions for English anglers, the Trust says: "The regulations are clear and you can only leave home to fish with members of your own household, your support bubble or with one other individual. The Rule of Six is now effectively the Rule of Two for most of us. "However, competitive fishing will be able to resume once there is a return to the three tier system of restrictions."

In Wales, the guidance is different. During its 'fire-break' lockdown, which is nearing its end, and will ease on Monday, November 9, angling is classed as an exercise which is permitted during the lockdown period, "as long as it starts and finishes at home", so long as anglers walk or cycle to the venue. However, with non-essential businesses being shut, the Welsh fisheries and tackle shops will remain shut until Wales' lockdown lifts. 

Welsh anglers should not travel to England to fish, and English anglers should not travel to Wales to fish. After November 9, however, Welsh anglers will be able to fish wherever they wish within Wales, but they will not be allowed to travel to England. Also two Welsh anglers from different households will be allowed to fish together, and competitions (maximum 30 people) could take place. International anglers will not be allowed to visit Wales until December 2 at the earliest.

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