LOCKDOWN measures have been modified – and it was the positive news so many have been waiting for.
In England only, Wednesday, May 13 signalled the start of people beingÂ allowed to take unlimited exercise outdoors.
People in England can now enjoy parks and public spaces without having to exercise.
Angling got the green light, thanks in no small part to efforts by the Angling Trust. And already, fishery owners, clubs and syndicates across England have welcomed anglers back.
After a delay, Welsh anglers are now allowed to fish locally, but limited to only locally, as we explain further down this post.
And from Monday, May 18, Northern Ireland anglers were also allowed back out again.
Further south, in Ireland, angling is currently allowed but only if it’s within 5 km from home.
Meanwhile, Scottish anglers finally heard good news for a return to fishing. They can restart on May 28, when some Scottish lockdown rules are eased.
Angler’s Mail has been getting its first new English catch reports through for several weeks. There is special reopening coverage in the new issue out now.
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As the English restart began, the Environment Agency commented officially for the first time on the situation.
The EA stated: “Under the new government guidelines, people can fish on their own, with their household, or with one other person while adhering to social distancing rules and staying two metres apart at all times.
“Outside members of your own household, people should remain two metres apart from other anglers or members of the public at all times.”
Angler’s Mail is aware that many waters will still remain closed, for now.
And it’s important to remember this is still the river fishing Close Season for coarse species in England (and Wales, too).
The key message for anyone planning a fishing trip anytime soon is to check the water will be open first – and book, if necessary.
Be sure to read and heed the latest venue rules, many of which are for safety… before fishing at a safe social distance.
Doubts temporarily arose over whether night fishing could fall foul of government daily travel rules, or be confused with camping (campsites cannot yet reopen).
‘Rule change’ surprised many anglers
The prospect of a return for angling in England on May 13, with safe social distancing, caught many anglers and fishery controllers by surprise.
On Sunday, May 10, Boris Johnson announced several tweaks to the rules during the deadly Covid-19 crisis… without giving away too much detail during his broadcast.
The Prime Minister also unveiled the latest message ofÂ ‘stay alert, control the virus, save lives’ in England.
But leading MP Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, publicly broke the news of angling being included in the initial lockdown easing.
He tweeted: “In recent weeks our daily exercise has been so important to our health and wellbeing.
“Now in tentative steps forward, and in the least risky outdoor environments, we can imminently allow some sports activity like golf, basketball, tennis, fishing – solo/in households. Guidance to follow.”
On Monday afternoon (May 11), the government published its full 50-page document, called Our Plan To Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy.
In the section on Public Spaces, with guidelines that kicked in from Wednesday, May 13, the document stated: “People may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish. For example, this would include angling and tennis.”
Important guidance is given
It has been up to fishery controllers, landowners and clubs to decide if and when they re-open… safely.
Some fisheries and clubs quickly issued statements online to say they would reopen straight away (on Wednesday, May 13).
Many of those waters that have now reopened have brought in extra safety measures and/or restrictions, including spacing between anglers. Other venue controllers are delaying any return to action.
It is important to check carefully before you travel to any fishing waters.
Some clubs will be able to quickly reopen some of their venues – but not necessarily all of them.
Be sure to have a valid EA rod licence. For many freshwater anglers, their licence expired during lockdown.
Social distancing is still being emphased as crucial, everywhere – and for all angling activity – to halt the spread of the nasty Covid-19 disease. Older people and high risk groups are still advised to stay at home.
Over the last few days, more details have been sought by the whole sport, with the Angling Trust leading the way, delivering updates.
The latest guidance from the Trust is meaning that no match fishing or other angling events are taking place, and they won’t happen for some time to come yet.
Below is the guidance for freshwater anglers from the Angling Trust’s regularly updated website. It’s also downloadable as a PDF .
Another set of guidelines was also produced by the Angling Trust, to help sea anglers.
Despite many piers not yet opening, and certain other coastal spots being no-go, it is good news for most shore and boat anglers.
If you’re planning a saltwater trip, be sure to read this guide…
Reactions from Angling Trust
The Angling Trust’s new CEO Jamie Cook and chief policy advisor Martin Salter, a former MP, reacted quickly to the breaking news of angling being allowed again in England.
The pair have been incredibly busy as the situation has developed over the hours and days since the news first broke.
They posted this initial reaction statement on the night it was confirmed that angling would be able to restart…
“Last week we launched our #WhenWeFishAgain campaign – with thousands of you getting involved.
“This week #WeAreFishingAgain – with angling in England due to begin on Wednesday 13th May 2020.
“We’ll keep an eye on the detail and keep you updated – but for now it’s positive news for the angling community.
“It is absolutely crucial that social distancing measures are adhered to and that the guidance to participate alone or with members of your own household are followed.
“We must not breach the rules the Prime Minister has laid down and we must ensure that we all act as ambassadors for our sport.
“Our phase one guidance portal is available to help clubs, fisheries and anglers prepare for our safe return to angling.Â
“We’re proud to have represented anglers in these discussions. We appreciate the support of those who have had input and who have joined us over the past week.
“We hope that many more of you who have seen the benefit in working together with a single voice on the big issues impacting our sport will join us to build a bright new future for fish and fishing. We are stronger together!”
Jamie and MartinÂ shared more information, which is still evolving, via a Facebook Live on Monday evening (May 11).
Their detailed video forum ran for over an hour and was broadcast via Angling Trust’s Facebook page, and was hosted by Ali Hamidi. All three men were speaking from home. You can watch the recording below.
Mainstream media channels including BBC News also highlighted angling as one of the pursuits to be widely possible again, giving Jamie Cook some TV airtime to explain its benefits.
What fishing is allowed in Wales?
The anglingÂ picture changed in Wales from Monday, May 18.Â The Angling Trust then confirmed that driving to local fishing venues is now allowed in Wales.
The emphasis is very much on local, alone or with members of your household. Welsh anglers have again been told to keep 2 metes apart at all times. Again, like England, it is up to venues to decide whether they wish to reopen yet. And rivers remain closed to coarse fishing until June 16.
Initally fishing in Wales was permitted only if a vehicle was not used.
The Trust confirmed: “Our letter (to Welsh Government) put forward the case that driving short, local distances would be essential for anglers with mobility issues, the elderly, disabled, and for certain types of angling, that in some case require more tackle to be carried, and of course for those not lucky enough to live within walking distance of a suitable venue.
“Following us taking up this issue directly, the Welsh Government has made the sensible decision to change their stance, therefore driving short, local distances to fish is now possible in Wales.
“We would like to point out that Wales is still in lockdown and social distancing regulations must be respected at all times.”
What about shops & other sports?
The phased reopening of most English shops, including tackle shops, currently looks unlikely until June at the earliest.
The Angling Trust are now pushing for tackle shops, including those on fisheries, to reopen as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
Already, more and more tackle shops are offering click and collect services, or telephone orders, including for fresh bait.
The reopening of many English fishing venues has created instant, welcome demand after weeks of financial struggle and uncertainty.
Other dealers, such as the big chain Angling Direct, have continued trading with their normal online website sales only, mailing goods to customers.
The government had said the decision of shop reopenings, and next phases, would be based upon assessment of the Covid-19 infection rate.
Meanwhile, other sports have also been urgently looking for further information and clarity for a socially distanced re-start.
Golf was one of the sports mentioned, alongside angling, for the Wednesday, May 13 restart and golfers also reacted positively to the news.
Official details emerge all the time
Lockdown easing statements raised many questions and concerns. The official fine details and guidance is being updated.
Some solid clarity did come in that detailed 50-page document, Our Plan To Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy.
The section on Public Spaces, noted the following…
“SAGE (The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advise that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside, so the Government is updating the rules so that, as well as exercise, people can now also spend time outdoors subject to: not meeting up with any more than one person from outside your household; continued compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain two metres (6ft) away from people outside your household; good hand hygiene, particularly with respect to shared surfaces; and those responsible for public places being able to put appropriate measures in place to follow the new COVID-19 Secure guidance.
“People may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish. For example, this would include angling and tennis. You will still not be able to use areas like playgrounds, outdoor gyms or ticketed outdoor leisure venues, where there is a higher risk of close contact and touching surfaces.
“You can only exercise with up to one person from outside your household â this means you should not play team sports, except with members of your own household.
“People may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance while they are there, because this does not involve contact with people outside your household.
“When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration.
“These measures may come with some risk; it is important that everyone continues to act responsibly, as the large majority have done to date. The infection rate will increase if people begin to break these rules and, for example, mix in groups in parks, which will trigger the need for further restrictions.”
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