Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

How do you feel about (potentially) not being allowed to go bass fishing for the first six months of next year?

As per my blog post from a couple of days ago, there has been a proposal from the European Commission that all commercial and sport fishing for bass be banned for the first half of 2016 (check here). Bearing in mind that this is merely a proposal, and the chances are that further “negotiations” could well water down these proposals, what are your thoughts about the fact there is now a (slim?) chance that for the first six months of 2016 you could not go out and legally sport fish for bass? Aside from throwing toys from prams and saying “no bloody way”, in the cold light of day could you consider not going bass fishing IF all commercial fishing for them was also banned at the same time? For the greater good?

Could spring bass like this be a fish of our dreams for the first six months of 2016?

Could spring bass like this be a fish of our dreams for the first six months of 2016?

I have thought about this a lot over the last couple of days since the EC proposals were published, and I am looking at the potential for six months of not going bass fishing in a bunch of different ways. First and foremost there must surely be the argument that for all the numbers thrown around like confetti (stock levels, angler numbers, commercial landings etc.), if we want to stand up and be counted as stakeholders in the future of bass stocks then we must put our money where our mouths are and take a bit of pain for the future good. Not for one second do I believe that responsible sport anglers are damaging bass stocks anywhere close to the same level that the rampant commercial overfishing of them is, but how can we as anglers argue our case if we aren’t prepared to “join in” with a ban on fishing for bass?

Because we are sport anglers and because many of us practise catch and release, should that then make us exempt from a fishing ban? In some respects it has to be a big fat yes, of course, but then I also see the other side to this argument that we should all be in this together, and that the collective aim can only be the one thing - far, far healthier bass stocks that one would then hope and pray were better managed for a better future, rather than a bit of short term pain with nothing to show for it a few more years down the line.

A ban on commercial fishing for bass for six months would I am sure be met with uproar from the commercial sector, but how about the sport fishing sector and those that work in and around sport fishing for bass especially? Tackle shops, tackle companies, guides/charter boats, journalists, photographers etc., how would they be affected by a potential six month ban on going sport fishing for bass? I would guess there would be no mention of any form of compensation within the sport fishing industry, that’s for sure!! Mr. Gilbey, we would like to pay you some money please because you didn’t manage to sell bass fishing related words and photos for a few months. Really? That is most kind of you Mr. and Mrs. Government, thanks very much indeed!!

There's something very special about the first bass session of the new season that produces fish

There's something very special about the first bass session of the new season that produces fish

Whilst that part of me feels that if a proper ban on commercial fishing came in for a specific time period then we should be a part of it as well, most of us I am sure are looking at this and wondering how on earth anglers are getting lumped in with the commercial sector, and especially when it comes to bass fishing and how so many of don’t even kill the fish we catch. Granted, there are too many bass of all sizes that are killed within the recreational sector, but really, does it bear comparison with commercially raping the bass stocks whilst they are in the middle of spawning? Call me short-sighted, but how could anybody in their right mind possibly justify the deliberate targeting of breeding fish stocks? We are human beings and we won’t stop until there’s nothing left.

And of course one must wonder how on earth a potential six month close season here in the UK (and I presume throughout Europe) would actually be enforced. Sure, if it’s law then in theory we should obey that lure, but come on, when were you last checked to see if you had taken more than three bass for example? What’s to stop any of us going out bass fishing if there is indeed a ban introduced? How about there being no anglers around to help “self-police” a coastline? First off I wonder how on earth it could actually be proved that bass were the principal target species that you were going for, and secondly, who’s going to do the catching of the law-breakers? I don’t remotely mean to condone going out sport fishing and potentially breaking the law, but who’s going to be out checking some lonely reef at 2am in the morning when the rampant levels of inshore netting are as good as left unchecked? And if the angler who chose to break the lure returned all their fish, would there actually be much harm done?

I will quote Martin Salter from the Angling Trust, via an article I read in The Times on Wednesday : “It is monstrously unfair to lump all forms of bass fishing together. There is no equivalence between a trawler dragging a huge net and a group of anglers going out at the weekend with a rod and line and fishing sustainably within agreed size and [catch] limits. Bass is our most popular sport fish and the majority of bass caught by anglers are returned to live and breed and fight another day.” I know Martin. He’s a mad keen angler and a thoroughly nice guy, and as much as I am trying my best to see all sides of the argument here, I can’t help but side with what he is saying here. This may well simply be because I am an angler who doesn’t want to have to stop targeting a fish he loves catching, but really, when you come down to it, how can the recreational sector be lumped in with the commercial sector?

Look, if a ban was to come in then in some respects we have no leg to stand on by saying we don’t want to be banned ourselves, but please Mr. EU can you ban the commercials though? We want more and bigger bass to catch (and mostly release I would guess), so surely we should be taking a bit of short term gain to try and secure those wants? I understand that, I really do, and if we were indeed banned for going bass fishing for six months then so be it - anything to try and secure a better future for bass stocks, surely? But what about a no-take season for recreational anglers instead - let’s say it’s six months long, with only barbless hooks to be used etc. Could any angler possibly argue against that if the commercial sector was then banned from landing bass for the same time period? And of course there is the burning question as to whether a six month ban is anywhere near enough of a measure to improve the health of the bass stocks anyway……...

Please leave a comment and tell me what you think. I love writing this blog, but I love it even more when you lot interact with me via the comments section below. Many thanks, have a good weekend. Crumbs, I was praying for some SW winds, just not quite this much!!