Robust new best practice guidelines published by the Angling Trust to bring match fishing in line with COVID-19 procedures have now been agreed by the government as a basis for competitions to resume immediately. These include no gathering of competitors for the draw or prize giving and special equipment and arrangements to maintain social distancing during the weigh-in.
The Angling Trust guidelines were produced in consultation with leading anglers, organisers and fisheries in the match fishing community across all angling disciplines.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) made clear in their announcement and supporting literature on 13th May 2020 that it was unlikely that competitions could be undertaken across any sporting discipline.
However, the Angling Trust compiled a case for the best practice guidelines to form the basis on which match fishing can comply with both the overarching government guidance that accompanies the Coronavirus regulations and the specific prohibitions on public gatherings of more than two people from different households. Failure to follow these guidelines would almost certainly invalidate the insurance of clubs or fisheries and will certainly expose anglers, and therefore the wider public, to a great risk of infection.
In last week’s submission to the DCMS, Angling Trust CEO Jamie Cook set out the reasons why competition fishing was different to other sports in ways which make it potentially compliant with the correct safeguards in place.
- Fishing competitions involve no contact between competitors and is more or less the comparison of catch returns at the end of the day
- Social distancing is maintained at all times during an angling competition
- There are no spectators
- No competitor is allowed to make contact with another competitor or their equipment
The Angling Trust best practice document was presented to Sport England and the DCMS last week who agreed that they were ‘sensible’ and could be issued this week as the basis for a safe resumption of match fishing in England. In response, DCMS also stated that they were looking for sports to satisfy themselves that all guidance they are producing for their members adheres to the overarching guidance published by the government.
Angling Trust CEO Jamie Cook welcomed the response saying: “We were always committed to move through the phases of our plan for the resumption of all forms of angling as quickly as possible, bearing in mind the changes in government guidance and the need to present angling as a safe and responsible outdoor activity.
“It’s because we have acted sensibly and professionally that the government is happy to see the Angling Trust guidelines as the basis for a return to competitive fishing in all angling disciplines.
“My message to match anglers and organisers is not to take this for granted, particularly when many other sports are restricted to participation with no more than one other individual. By all means enjoy fishing matches again but please do so safely by following our guidelines to minimise the risk.”
Following the easing of some of the lockdown restrictions on May 13th, general guidance to anglers in the Angling Trust’s When We Fish Again report will be revised. The changes will include:
- A resumption in match fishing in line with best practice guidance
- The use of keep nets will be permitted for all anglers
- Kayak and boat fishing in freshwater
Separate guidelines have been produced for game, coarse and sea angling competitions but Charter boat fishing is still not compliant under the current regulations.
Steve Ringer said: “As a match angler first and foremost this is great news and it is a credit to the Angling Trust’s approach that we find ourselves back so soon. We must however now make sure we justify this by meeting the guidelines and setting an example to all. Its good to be back!”
Chris Clark, BCAe said: “I’m delighted to hear the news that match fishing can resume and commend the Angling Trust on their work in this area. It’s incredibly important that everyone, organisers and anglers, play our part and follow rules, guidance and best practice to ensure competitions are safe for everyone involved.”
Ifor Jones, of Fishery Management Draycote-Eyebrook-Thornton, said: “It’s great news that anglers will be able to fish competitions once again and I applaud the Angling Trust for being proactive and supporting the safe reintroduction of competitions. I look forward to welcoming competitive anglers to our fisheries in due course.”
Aaron Grantham of Lindholme Lakes said: “Great to see that the hard work and commitment from the Angling Trust and all the other individuals involved paid off. We can now get match fishing going again in a safe manner.”
Dave Harrell added: “I’m delighted with the news that competition fishing is back. The important thing now is that all match anglers respect the current situation we are in and work closely with competition organisers to ensure that we have totally safe events.
“We’ve got long daylight hours at present so we must take our time and think carefully about our actions when it comes to things like weighing in.”
Best Practice Guidelines for Sea Competition Fishing under COVID-19 are being ratified and will appear on the “Latest Updates” section of the Angling Trust’s Angling Support Hub