Legal blunder allows close season fishing

AN INCREDIBLE legal blunder apparently means it’s no longer illegal to fish during the close season.

AN INCREDIBLE legal blunder apparently means it’s no longer illegal to fish during the close season.

The same mix-up means club bailiffs can no longer check anglers’ rod licences, according to the Angling Trust.

Close season fishing is rife in some parts of the Fens, as anyone who spends time driving around the area will be aware.

And with law abiding anglers off the banks for the three-month annual lay-off, the lack of possible scrutiny means those who set night lines and gill nets can have a field day.

The offence of fishing in the close season was removed from the statute books during recent changes to fishery law.

Government lawyers assumed the offence was included in new national byelaws, but these simply set out close season dates and times, without including offences.

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So while the existing close seasons and times remain as set out in byelaws, there is now no actual offence of fishing during the close season.

Another section of the old act allowed anyone with a rod licence to require another angler to show his licence and give his name and address.

This was a useful tool for angling clubs and fisheries.

Changes to the law have removed this power too.

The Angling Trust claims 14 anglers have been successfully prosecuted for fishing in the close season and that their convictions will now have to be nullified. More than 90 other cases are pending.

Mark Lloyd, its chief executive, said: “We are very concerned that such a major error could be made by the teams of lawyers involved in drafting new legislation.

“We also believe that the attempts to conceal the error were misconceived and that a full public statement should have been made once the error was discovered.”

Weed is likely to be the next big thing on the bank, with the EA using a floating combine to clear the Ouse up-stream of Ely.

Similar operations on the Wissey render parts of the lower river difficult when the cut stuff gets flushed down by the first autumn rain.