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England closed to fishing

As most of the UK and Ireland succumbs to another bout of strict lockdowns, reminiscent of the one brought in last March to arrest the spread of Coronavirus, The Angling Trust reported last night that the government has taken the decision that fishing will not be permitted in England during this national lockdown period.

The Trust stated that individuals should not go fishing from midnight on January 5, and clubs and fisheries should close their waters to anglers.

The Angling Trust's Jamie Cook, speaking on behalf of English anglers, said "Whilst this is disappointing news I would ask anglers, fisheries and clubs to respect these rules and the reason they have been put in place; to help save lives and support the NHS."

Wales

In Wales, however, which has been at level 4 lockdown since December 19, the rules differ. Recognising the importance of fishing to maintaining physical and mental well-being, fishing is still allowed as a form of exercise, either alone or with members of the same household. However, Welsh Government regulations on exercise means that this should should start and finish at home: "Your exercise should start and finish from your home and generally, this should not involve people driving to a location away from home. However, we recognise that some people, such as those with specific health or mobility issues, may need to travel from their home in order to exercise", states the government's guidelines.

Effectively, this means Welsh anglers should walk or cycle to the venue only, unless disability prevents them from being able to do so.

During the level 4 alert people are expected to stay at home with travel only allowed for essential reasons, and non-essential businesses are closed. Therefore, during the level 4 lockdown travel to go fishing or on holiday in Wales – and travel to and from England to go fishing – is banned.
Outdoor meetings are banned, therefore no angling competitions should take place in Wales.

Scotland

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that, from midnight on January 5, and for the duration of January, there is a legal requirement to stay at home except for essential purposes. Again, this is similar to the lockdown of March 2020. However, this time, the First Minister has acknowledged that it is important for physical and mental well-being that people can access the outdoors for fresh air and exercise as much as possible, and local outdoor recreation, sport or exercise is to be considered an appropriate reason for leaving home. Unlike the March lockdown last year, the frequency of outdoor exercise is not being limited.

Thus, angling is permissible, provided this is within a single household group, or the group contains no more than two people from two different households. Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards this number.

Other acceptable outdoor non-contact activities are walking, cycling and golf. Travel to local sport or exercise is also allowed, but this must stay within the more general requirements of the lockdown rules; this means staying as close to home as possible – within an individual's local authority, or no more than five miles from the local authority boundary – and staying away from crowded places.

Fishing competitions, club outings or group meetings, etc are not permitted under the current restrictions. Sea angling from the shore is also allowed, provided that anglers comply with the more general requirements listed above, and sea angling from private boats with members of the same household is also allowed.

Again, sea angling should be practiced as close to home as possible and no more than five miles beyondthe angler's local authority boundary.

Angling from charter boats is not currently permitted. Travelling from other parts of the UK to fish in Scotland is not allowed.

Ireland

Ireland is now under Level 5 restrictions until January 31, 2021. The restrictions mean that travel is only for work, education or other essential purposes, and angling is treated as an exercise, so anglers must stay within 5km of their home.

The guidelines also state that people may meet with one other household in outdoor settings when taking exercise, but there should be no gatherings or competitions. Each household should also travel separately.

Regarding boat fishing, there is a limit of two anglers in a boat, and they need to comply with physical distancing rules (unless they are from same household). The Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) reminds boat anglers to maintain physical distancing on board and at slipways and access points.

Meanwhile, IFI has ceased all stocking operations.

Visiting international anglers are advised to refer to the government guidelines ‘Arriving to Ireland from another country’ for up-to-date advice. 

Jamie Cook summarised the situation in England, "We have presented a strong case on how fishing could continue safely during the third national lockdown. We have explained that fishing benefits physical health and mental wellbeing and that it is regularly the only form of activity individuals undertake.

"However, with 60,000 new infections announced today (Jan 5), the Government have taken the decision that leaving home for recreation or leisure, including all forms of recreational fishing, should be prohibited in England during this third national lockdown period… the Angling Trust will continue to represent our sport at the highest level and will present proposals for the resumption of angling when it is safe and sensible to do so. We will come through this period of national crisis. We will fish again, but until then, please, stay safe".

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