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Trust issues guidelines for angling during lockdown

The Angling Trust has published a comprehensive set guidelines for anglers allowing them to fish safely, locally and responsibly without falling foul of the law. This follows the recent change of tack from government which initially excluded English anglers from fishing when the lockdown was announced on January 5, but then changed tack, allowing anglers to fish on January 7, after other lobbyists, such as the canoeists, had managed to gain cleareance that their sports were acceptable 'exercises'.

The confusion over exercise was exacerbated at the weekend when two women drove five miles in separate cars for a walk at Foremark reservoir, only to be arrested by Derbyshire Police who deemed it "not in the spirit of 'exercise". They were initially fined £200, but Police later apologised. Confusion extended further when the Prime Minister was criticised for cycling seven miles from his residence, having previously stated everyone should exercise locally.

Angling was, by then, deemed by government as a 'reasonable excuse' for exercise, which was widely welcomed, as many other sports could not continue, but anglers remained confused over the rules on locality and the time they could spend fishing.

The key messages from the Trust to English anglers are:

  • This is a strictly limited resumption of local fishing and very different to how anglers have been allowed to operate since May
  • Angling is a ‘reasonable excuse’ recognised by Government, which was clarified by Sport England, which mentioned fishing as an acceptable exercise
  • Anglers should be able to show that any travel to go fishing is in accordance with the government’s instruction to stay local. To remain within the law, anglers should follow the travel guidance and only fish locally
  • The National Lockdown must be respected. The law requires a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave your home or penalties will apply
  • The Trust advises that if a police officer decide to issue you with a direction order or fixed penalty notice you should accept it, pack up immediately, and return home if so instructed
  • Organised sporting gatherings are prohibited, so match fishing is banned
  • Exercise is limited to once a day, so overnight fishing is banned
  • Anglers should also avoid fishing in crowded places where social distancing could be difficult and might give rise to concerns over public health

Government guidelines on exercise state you should minimise time spent outside your home, but you can leave your home to exercise. This exercise should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.  'Exercise', says the guidelines, includes – but is not limited to – running, cycling, walking, and swimming. Thus angling qualifies as a 'reasonable excuse' for exercise.

The guidelines also say you can exercise in a public outdoor place: by yourself; with the people you live with; with your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one); in a childcare bubble where providing childcare; or, when on your own, with one person from another household.

Public outdoor places include: parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests; public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them); the grounds of a heritage site; playgrounds. However, all outdoor sports venues – tennis courts, golf courses, swimming pools – must close. 

Children under 5, and up to 2 carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care, are not counted towards the gatherings limits for exercising outside.

The guidelines go on to state that if you (or a person in your care) have a health condition that routinely requires you to leave home to maintain your health - including if that involves travel beyond your local area or exercising several times a day - then you can do so.

On social distancing, the guidelines state: "When around other people, stay two metres apart from anyone not in your household - meaning the people you live with - or your support bubble. Where this is not possible, stay one metre apart with extra precautions (like wearing a face covering)."

Martin Salter, Angling Trust Policy Chief said: “Covid has caused an unprecedented and deadly global pandemic costing thousands of lives and putting our NHS staff under intolerable pressure. We are clear that angling must be part of the solution and not a cause of problems or concern. Getting Ministers to recognise the case for local fishing was a huge achievement but it has understandably triggered hundreds of enquiries and requests for clarification. Foremost was to define ‘local’ - hardly an easy task since the government has not done so in the regulations as the Police have been pointing out this week and the Prime Minister has demonstrated with his recent seven-mile cycle ride. By bringing everything into one document we hope that we’ve provided everything anglers need to know in order fish safely, locally and responsibly during the lockdown without falling foul of the law.”

Read the Angling Trust guidelines here

Scott Mann, North Cornwall MP and a keen angler, welcomed the continuation of angling saying: “We have seen over the last 12 months the positive impact angling can have on people’s mental health. As a solitary pursuit it can be enjoyed without concerns about distancing from other, so I am glad we are now able to fish once again.”

Jamie Cook, Angling Trust CEO, added: "We have acted responsibly, professionally and effectively, much to the envy of many other sports, as has been acknowledged by Sport England, the Environment Agency, government ministers and officials and the thousands of anglers who have sent us messages of support or joined us in record numbers. But I must stress that the spotlight is on us like never before and we must all conduct ourselves responsibly and fish safely. Please remember we are extremely fortunate to be able to fish at all and we must all act as ambassadors for our sport.”

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