In May and June, the Environment Agency invited 20,000 randomly selected anglers from across England to provide their views on the coarse fish close season. Of the 5,147 anglers that took part, 2,553 (49.6%) would like to see a change, with 2,190 (42.5%) wanting to keep the close season as it is. Only 404 (7.9%) are undecided. Of those opting for change, 1,695 (32.9%) are in favour of abolishing the close season altogether and 858 (16.7%) prefer a change to the current close season start and end dates.

The survey follows a review of the evidence around the close season by a joint Environment Agency, Angling Trust and Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) study group.

Given that a significant proportion of those anglers polled want to see a change to the current coarse fish close season on rivers, we will now open up the debate to all anglers and others with an interest in freshwater fisheries by holding a public consultation later in the year.

Kevin Austin, Deputy Director for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Natural Environment at theEnvironment Agency said “We are grateful to all those that took part in the survey. The fact that so many did shows how important this is to anglers. It also means the results are statistically robust – it is a true reflection of anglers’ views.

“We plan to hold a consultation later in the year which will examine all the arguments andevidence, to help inform any future change in the close season byelaw”

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said “The Angling Trust will not take any formal position in lobbying for or against any changes in the river close season but we strongly believe that the views of all anglers should be taken into account and are pleased that this important issue is now going out to full consultation.

It will doubtless arouse some strong feelings on all sides but as an angling community weshouldn’t be frightened to debate, scrutinise and examine the evidence for the laws that affect and govern our sport.”

Steve Axford from the IFM said “The Institute of Fisheries Management is pleased to see that there will be wider public consultation on the closed season for coarse fish in rivers. We wish to help with assessment of the arguments and any further evidence that may come from the consultation and in the development of any proposed changes to byelaws that may result.”

The Environment Agency will now proceed with arrangements to consult anglers and anyone else with an interest in the close season and will publicise plans later in the year.