The Angling Trust has now had an opportunity to consider the government’s comprehensive, 64-page Winter Covid Plan which will introduce a revised three-tier system from Wednesday, December 2nd.

Full details can be found here

We are pleased that ministers appreciate both the importance and safety of outdoor recreation and organised sport and that the plan opens more opportunities for more people to enjoy leisure and recreation. Although anglers have been in the fortunate position to be able to fish continuously since May 13th, there have been a number of restrictions in place during the latest lockdown which will now be lifted. Tackle shops can open up fully, competition fishing can resume as can coaching and charter boat fishing with up to six participants in total. This is all positive news for our sport.

Meeting People
The Rule of Two is now back to the Rule of Six. This applies both indoors and outdoors in T1, outdoors only in T2 and in T3 only in ‘outdoor public spaces’. Of course, most angling is, by its nature, already socially distanced, and organised matches and events have their own rules.

Travel
Once again, we expect the travel guidance will be advisory rather than law but the Angling Trust will be urging anglers to exercise common sense and act within the spirit of the government’s guidance.

The government is advising against all unnecessary travel into and out of T3 areas, the exceptions being for ‘work, education, youth services, medical attention or caring responsibilities’.  Travel for fishing within T3 areas is not currently discouraged.

In all other tiers, travelling to go fishing is fine but long journeys should be avoided ‘wherever possible’. Sea anglers should focus on their local beaches and fishing marks, and freshwater anglers should not be travelling hundreds of miles in search of fishing during the current pandemic.

You absolutely must not leave home to fish if you have Coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.

Tackle Shops and Clubhouses
Retail outlets can open in all three tiers meaning that tackle shops are no longer restricted to ‘click/call and collect’. Indoor venues such as clubhouses and on-site cafes serving food and drink can now reopen in T1 and T2 providing table service is offered.  T3 allows only for takeaway service. All outlets must continue to adhere to the appropriate regulations including the requirement to ensure social distancing.

Fisheries
Angling-related businesses, now including those offering accommodation in T1 and T2, can operate as normal whilst adhering to the appropriate regulations including the requirement to ensure social distancing.

Match Fishing
With the rules on gatherings likely to be revised to once more allow sporting events and outdoor activities, match fishing can resume as long as appropriate risk assessments are in place. Participants and organisers still need to follow the published Angling Trust guidelines to ensure compliance with social distancing and to minimise the risk of infection.

To comply with the travel guidance in the Winter Plan, match organisers will need to revise any planned competitions which could result in participants seeking to enter or leave T3 areas. Local competitions within T3 areas remain within the parameters of the government’s travel guidance.

Night Fishing
There are presently no limits on the time that can be spent on outdoor recreation, anglers are able to continue fishing into and through the hours of darkness providing the other rules are observed. Night fishing will continue to be permitted under the re-introduced tier system.

Coaching
The Winter Plan allows for angling coaching to resume at our recommended ratio of 1:4 and in accordance with our previously published guidelines. The Winter Plan specifically identifies ‘classes and organised sport’ together with ‘organised activities for …under 18s and disabled people’ as something that can take place outside in all three tiers.

Charter Boats
Charter boats can resume their previous operations in accordance with the Rule of Six – so a skipper plus five clients.

Tackle Shows and Game Fairs
The Winter Plan takes the first steps on the road back to restarting major events. In T1 this is limited to 50% capacity or 4,000 persons outdoors and 1,000 indoors. In T2 this reduces to 2,000 outdoors and 1,000 indoors. The only large-scale events permissible in T3 are drive-ins. We are hopeful that planning can now begin for the resumption of tackle shows and events involving angling in the latter half of 2021.

What happens next?
The regulations will be published in advance of a vote in Parliament on Thursday and following the vote further guidance and FAQ’s are likely to be produced by the various government departments. Once we have seen the details of regulations we will update, where necessary, our published guidelines and distribute to our members and to the wider angling community.

What we will not be doing is seeking to police the government’s regulations as that is not our responsibility. People wishing to report breaches of the regulations should contact the police via the 101 telephone number. Our job, as the recognised national governing body for angling, is to provide advice and guidance on how these regulations affect our sport and to ensure that anglers can continue to enjoy their fishing safely. However, we will take a stand against any conduct or practices that bring our sport into disrepute and threaten the good name and reputation that angling has built over many years and throughout this pandemic.

Jamie Cook, CEO of Angling Trust & Fish Legal, said:
“Angling has conducted itself safely throughout this pandemic and must continue to do so. These new restrictions are good news for angling as a whole and we urge all anglers to continue to fish responsibly and not to put themselves or our sport at risk. The Angling Trust will continue to monitor guidelines published by the government and keep members and informed as to what they will mean for angling.”

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