The 2015 Fishing Census Results
The 2015 Fishing Census by RodsOnRivers and Strutt & Parker
The digital revolution has transformed the way we do business and communicate in our daily lives.
GunsOnPegs and RodsOnRivers now has over 85,000 members combined and continues to grow steadily. It is from this membership alongside the expertise of Strutt & Parker that we are able to conduct a substantial survey on game shooting and fishing.
During the last 12 months we have held regional seminars across the UK, meeting with a wide cross-section of providers in order to consult with them on what information they would find useful to learn about the shooting and fishing communities.
We hope this census provides guidance to the providers as well as useful information to those that buy shooting and fishing. We find that shooting is a sport that is experiencing growth at all levels, but fishing, particularly for salmon in the UK, is facing some considerable challenges.
The survey has been completed by over 3,000 respondents with a consistent demographic to the previous surveys in 2013 and 2014. This year we have endeavoured to examine international participation and we are pleased that 6% of the respondents are from outside the UK.
Shooting and fishing involve people from all walks of life and acts as a substantial contributor to the economy. The results contain useful information to substantiate this position.
Scotland is still the most sought-after destination for fishing in the UK, but is showing the biggest decline at 8.3%. The North East was the only place to show a meaningful increase in anglers this year with 16.15%. The River Tyne has become more popular due to competitive pricing and better accessibility from the South of England. The region also posted strong catch data this season. We believe that this is undoubtedly due to the owners realising that they have an important asset which can generate income for them. This is primarily due to effective management of the river, and shows what can be achieved by a cohesive and decisive management plan and support from the relevant river trust.
FISH FOR YOUR FUNDS!
We believe that there is still value fishing to be found in the UK but the market continues to promote the major and / or prestigious rivers, and the rivers which lack the cache of the high cost rivers can often be ignored. For example, some of the beats on the rivers in the South West of Scotland catch 200+ fish but at a maximum cost of around £50 per rod/day. More needs to be done by agents, rivers and beats on those rivers to promote themselves and shake off the belief that people do not want to fish them. After all, if people don’t know, people won’t come...
THE PULL FROM ABROAD
Unfortunately, as nothing thus far has been done to stem commercial netting of salmon in our seas, there continues to be a problem. Value for money is luring fisherman abroad, and large catches are encouraging rods to pay a premium. However, will this last? We currently have a strong pound and overseas outfits have realised that UK anglers are prepared to travel.
THE IMPACT OF WEATHER?
Fishermen have been dissuaded from travelling to catch salmon this season because of catch numbers and river conditions. Since then, the weather has not been good for salmon and although a number of rivers have had good years across the board, we believe that the weather and resulting lack of fish caught runs completely parallel to the decrease in people heading out to enjoy the sport.
There are many syndicates which offer stunningly good value, but we believe the beats and owners concerned could better promote this fishing. This is coupled with the fact that the average angler is often unable to commit to taking the same day off every week.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CATCH AND RELEASE
More fisheries have a catch and release policy than last year, which fits in line with the awareness of the decline in Atlantic salmon.
We believe this is key for the success of British rivers and the Atlantic salmon’s future. It would be fair to say that only a tiny percentage of salmon are now killed by anglers but this is still a major issue. We fear there are still those out there who will not fish in Scotland until after the mandatory catch and release period finishes on 31 March. We are now aware of a number of beats who enforce catch and release until the end of May, though there is little we can do if someone does kill a salmon, except refuse any future bookings. Every salmon taken reduces the gene pool and we estimate that a dead hen fish of 10lbs in weight is equivalent of removing 100k eggs from the system. The fact that for every 100k eggs fertilised only 1.6 fish make it back to the river is a testament to how important it is to maximise the resource, not just for now but for generations to come.
We have seen fishing decrease over the past few years due to dwindling numbers of salmon being caught. The occasional ‘bumper year’ does not and should not be seen as a great indicator when the medium term trend is downwards. The long term trend will be a continual decline if we don’t start to do something about protecting our Atlantic salmon.
THE DEMISE OF WEEK LETS
There has been a significant increase in fisheries selling full days as opposed to week lets or season tickets. Could this be because people do not want to commit to a full week, given the poor last few years? Or is it to do with the fact that those who previously took full weeks are getting older, and the younger members of those families may prefer to do something with the valuable vacation time rather than fish?
Either way, the era of fisheries relying on week lets is fast declining and all for the better in our opinion. This allows the average angler to get access to fishing that for far too long has been the preserve of the rich, self-employed or retired.
As day lets have increased, we have far more fisheries that are prepared to keep and display catch data. Not only this, there is a large increase in the number of fisheries supplying or selling tackle and/or flies. We believe these are due to the increase in travelling rods and day lets being offered, and the resulting customer service that is required within an increasingly competitive environment.
ADVANCEMENTS IN TECHNOLOGY
Although there has been a small increase in the use of agents, 84.6% of fisheries either do, or would consider offering their availability online. Given that online booking is not highly prevalent in the fishing world, this shows a desire for more fisheries to operate independently.
There is a very large increase in the number of fisheries that do not offer the ability to check water levels/catch reports online. Could this be linked to the poor weather conditions and season as a result this year? Or could it be that the majority do not have the time to do this in a meaningful manner?
Of the 86% that do not have webcams on their water, 61% would consider using them, which is very interesting. This demonstrates that technology is even affecting the wildest of sports. Many fisheries have been concerned about showing the river height to prospective rods, so as not to put them off in non-perfect conditions but this is clearly changing. There is a strong argument that not having the river data lends a touch of mystique to the booking and the anticipation of a catch - should this be part of the booking process or not?
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